Sunday, April 06, 2008

Bangkok luxury hotel offers tour of poverty before massive feast

Somewhere in the firmament of Michelin-starred chefs there must be one willing to accept $8,000 for a single night's work.

The only catch is that this particular dinner at a Bangkok luxury hotel has stirred up a mighty controversy, and two dozen chefs around the world have declined to cook it. Several have confessed fears of losing a coveted star in the Michelin guide, the gastronome's bible that can make or break culinary careers.

Bangkok's Lebua hotel, which is organizing the dinner, is no stranger to publicity - or to Michelin-starred chefs. Last year, it put on a decadent feast billed as the meal of a lifetime for $25,000 a head. Six three-star Michelin chefs were flown in from Europe to cook the 10-course meal, each plate paired with a rare vintage wine.

On April 5, the Lebua is offering another 10-course spread, this time for free. The hotel has invited 50 of its biggest-spending customers to the dinner prepared - it hopes - by three top-ranked Michelin-starred chefs.

There is one twist. Before dinner, guests will be jetted to a poor village in northern Thailand to spend the afternoon soaking up the sights of poverty. The dinner and full-day excursion will cost the hotel $300,000.

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