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Thailand's star chefs go wild for local food

Global trend is transforming traditional Thai cuisine and the lives of growers and suppliers

A bone marrow dish at Bangkok's 100 Mahaseth. Chef Chalee Kader likes to boast that “everything in my restaurant is local except the Ikea knives.” (Courtesy of 100 Mahaseth)

BANGKOK -- Thailand's top chefs, including a growing number presiding over Michelin-starred kitchens, are leading an upsurge in interest in artisanal food suppliers. But behind the country's thriving farm-to-table revolution are hundreds of local entrepreneurs, including a former engineer who built an organic coffee plantation with his own hands and a retired United Nations diplomat producing Thai wagyu beef.

Within just a few years, local wagyu, Thai camembert, truffled brie and burrata cheeses and even Thai caviar have begun supplementing the country's export crops of bananas and rice. Meanwhile, a literal "grass roots" movement has introduced new flavors, organic methods and principles along with higher profits for small-scale producers.

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