Where in the World is Jay Fai?

One day in Bangkok we were riding a tuk tuk and the driver pointed out that that was the famous Jay Fai restaurant on the street, and when I turned to look all I saw was a blue awning. The next day we decided to go visit Jay Fai so we got into a tuk tuk and I showed them the Google page of the name of the restaurant since my Thai was lacking at this point. We arrived and there was a huge bright sign that I hadn’t seen before with a name of a restaurant in Thai. There was also a long line of people that was about 50 people deep. We decided to get into line before we lost our spot, we didn’t care how long we had to wait as long as we got into the famous restaurant. While in line I started to get an off feeling. I didn’t remember the bright lights or takeout window from either show on Netflix that I had watched prior to our trip. I though it was more subdued than that, but while we were in line I noticed that there was a Michelin star sticker on the window and I looked at the attire of people who work there and their shirts featured an old lady with goggles on over a wok. That was enough evidence of everything I knew about Jay Fai, so we decided to stay in line. We waited for 30 minutes but finally got a table inside.

When we got inside there was no crab omelette on the menu, but that was the one special I expected to get. It didn’t make any sense, on all of the specials that she was on she was making her famous crab omelette. So I decided to get Pad Thai instead, but the whole time that we were there sitting down I kept telling TC and Marissa that something felt off. I thought that either she sold out or we were in the wrong place. I ended up having the worst Pad Thai of my life that night by the end of it I was calling the whole thing a scam and saying that the Netflix specials had lied. I even said that she did not deserve her Michelin star. We then decided to walk to the end of the road just to make sure that we didn’t miss anything, and there she was, on the corner above her wok, Jay Fai. We felt so stupid that we were less and 50 feet away from the real Jay Fai restaurant and that we got pulled into the tourist trap of the other restaurant. It was absolutely magical when I saw her, she was so focused. We saw a sign on the door that said reservations could be made by emailing a specific email address. I took a few pictures and noticed that everybody was awaiting their food. One person was even time-lapsing the process of making their meal with a GoPro.

Before I went  to Bangkok I had read an article that Jay Fai wishes that she could give back her Michelin star because the restaurant has been so crowded after she received it, and then the stress was compounded when she was featured on two food specials. I learned that she has decided to make every meal herself that she’s overworked and that the government is on her back about taxes and making sure that she’s not evading them. I felt super sad that the joy of cooking has somewhat been lost to her. After remembering that article, I looked at her in a new light. Her face is creased from years of hard work, but there was a new type of sadness with her newfound popularity. I saw people taking pictures of her, asking her questions, and people crowding along the sidewalk just to get a glimpse. When I got back to the hotel I emailed the reservation email to try and get a table for the next time we were going to be in Bangkok in a few days. It turns out that they are booked for months and months in advance and the next reservation wasn’t available until November. We had to give up on the idea of eating there, but after seeing her in person, I didn’t want to be one more crab omelet.

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