Food & Drink

You Can (and Should) Plan a Whole Bangkok Weekend Eating at Restaurants by This Chef

From 100 Mahaseth to Fran’s… Locavore, sustainable, nose-to-tail chef Chalee Kader is always on our radar and needs to be on yours, too.

Chalee Kader

Courtesy of 100 Mahaseth

By Megan Leon

Nov 11, 2022

ON ANY GIVEN DAY, you can find Chalee Kader flipping pancakes and turning eggs into the most sought-after scramble in Bangkok. Is that unexpected for a guy famous for his offal-focused dishes? Not at all. Both are forms of comfort food, and this multi-talented, business-savvy, cooler-than-a-polar-bear’s-toenails chef has the soothing side of eating at heart in everything he does.

Chef Chalee Kader presides over Mickey’s Diner (American to the core), Fran’s Brunch and Greens (good luck getting into this new weekend hotspot), Holy Moly (English-style pies), a fine-dining restaurant, Wana Yook, which highlights the vast varieties of rice from around Thailand in a one-of-its-kind tasting menu, and 100 Mahaseth – a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin guide and also listed in Asia’s 50 Best Discovery

Chalee Kader 100 Mahaseth Wana yook
Chef Chalee Kader. Courtesy of 100 Mahaseth

It was the last, a northeast Thai, Isaan-style restaurant, that put Chalee Kader on the international map. In creating 100 Mahaseth, he had a huge hand in starting Thailand’s cult-like movement of using and respecting strictly domestic ingredients through his brazen nose-to-tail, root-to-fruit, zero-waste dishes that challenged the notion of high-end fare in formerly more traditional Bangkok. Think giant goat ribs, tripe chips with nam prik (chili jam), a northern Thai sausage hot dog, and the restaurant’s most Instagrammed dish: roasted bone marrow topped with perilla seeds. 

“100 Mahaseth single-handedly changed the Bangkok dining scene. His unique fusion cuisine seamlessly blends east and west, tradition and modernity, resulting in a balanced, distinctive cuisine with gentle nods to culinary icons” explain P-A and Lotta Jorgensen, editors of Fool Magazine. Adds chef Chudaree ‘Tam’ Debhakam of Baan Tepa: “Chalee has made a huge contribution to the local sustainable food movement in Thailand and is always unapologetic about the way he delivers his story. He dares to break boundaries.” 

Chalee Kader: Bone Marrow, 100 Mahaseth
Bone Marrow. Courtesy of 100 Mahaseth

Born to an Indian father and Thai/Chinese mother, Chalee grew up in Bangkok where he attended an international school and spent weekends learning how to cook from his parents. At 18, he relocated to northern California where he studied Marketing Psychology during the week and worked as a dishwasher on the weekends, eventually dropping out of school and moving into the kitchen full time, before heading back to Bangkok to work as the head chef for the French Ambassador, the place where he found his calling. Had you been in the know when visiting Bangkok within the past decade pre-Covid, you might have gone to the now-closed, and all still-mourned Surface (once the coolest late-night kitchen in the trendy Thonglor neighborhood), The Beer Bridge (a craft-beer gastro pub) or Knock (a sneaker store / elevated diner / exclusive bar).

Opening 100 Mahaseth, however, was the true road to self discovery. “After traveling to Isaan and seeing how local people lived, how they ate, and their immense respect for food and animals, something switched in me,” Kader says. He soon changed tactics and immersed himself in his own culture, in a full 360-manner. “Chalee’s creativity is endless and his actions to support the people behind Isaan ingredients have had a ripple effect in the F&B [food and beverage] scene, bridging the gap between local people and their views of local ingredients,” says his long-time friend and colleague, the owner of Samuay & Sons in Udon Thani, Weerawat ‘Num’ Triyasenawat, himself a huge champion of spicy, and ferment-forward Isaan cuisine.

Chalee Kader 100 mahaseth
Soy-Ju. Courtesy of 100 Mahaseth

Kader’s style is refreshingly unorthodox. He made Thai beef relevant, cow bile and brains appetizing – challenging people’s negative perceptions of local ingredients and bringing pride to them. The biggest challenge for him, he says, is “trying to make people give a higher value to Isaan food and also trying to be sustainable.” What most would have shunned before now has people gravitating towards his ethos, building him a loyal following. While everyone might be doing hay-smoked duck, he’s off making his own pastrami or breaking down an entire cow for Eater

“I don’t think my food is authentic but I always think about how to make things that I understand more interesting,” he tells me. With Kader’s portfolio of some of the most talked-about restaurants in Bangkok, that span from Thai to American classics, you can even find replicas of his most famous creations on menus as far as Portland, Oregon, and as close as home, which let’s face it, might be the sincerest form of flattery. Rather than irritate him, this only seems to push him harder in the kitchen to get creative, keep evolving the food scene and keep people wanting more. 

Sponsored by Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

Kader has brought more to the table than offcuts and offals (delicious though we have all now decided that they are). Even with all on his plate, he works for the food community and wants to pass on his education and knowledge to the younger generation, particularly those who work for him. “Chalee Kader is a beacon for young chefs who need a standard to aspire to,” says Pok Pok founder Andy Ricker, of the man who humbly credits his peers with paving the way. “Num, Prin [Samrub for Thai; Nahm], Dylan and Bo [bo.lan; err; The Food Trust],” Kader says, “these guys inspired me to not take shortcuts.”

When Bangkok shut its borders during the height of the pandemic, Kader created the “100 Smiles”  initiative, teaming up with various restaurants and chefs, particularly with chef Deepanker Khosla of Haoma restaurant, which launched its own No One Hungry foundation, to support those in need while making sure their staff and long lists of suppliers maintained some kind of steady income. Since then, you can always find Kader bringing attention to local farmers and artisans through his own personal social media outlet – if he is not busy collaborating with them. 

Chalee Kader of 100 Mahaseth
Courtesy of 100 Mahaseth

Kader currently does a staff swap with restaurants around Bangkok, including white-tablecloth fine-diner Igniv, giving his employees a chance to learn the tricks of the trade in various F&B environments. Next? He plans to start a chefs’ training program to dig a little deeper into the wonderful world of Thai ingredients.

An All-Chalee Kader Eating Tour of Bangkok

100 Mahaseth

Specializing in northern Thai and Isaan fare, 100 Mahaseth’s two locations pride themselves on using only local ingredients in a sustainable manner that incorporates all parts, root-to-fruit or nose-to-tail. T+L Tip: Above the original outpost, near Chinatown, is the new, sustainability-minded speakeasy Mahaniyom; try the Cow cocktail, using fat wash from 100 Mahaseth’s wagyu.; average cost of food for two Bt1,500

Mickey’s Diner

Chalee Kader: Mickey’s Diner
Courtesy of Mickey’s Diner

There’s nowhere better in Bangkok to get your American diner fix than at Mickey’s. Chicken and waffles, sausage gravy and biscuits, clam chowder… Their over-the-top, Insta-worthy milkshakes have the masses coming in for a sugar rush and the perfect photo op, but the bloody Mary is our pick for an authentic lunchtime pick-me-up.; average cost of food for two Bt600 

Wana Yook

Chalee Kader: Wana Yook
Courtesy of Wana Yook

A first of its kind, Wana Yook is premised on one of Thailand’s national dishes, khao gaeng, the many iterations of curry-over-rice you can find on most street corners around the country. Here, the fine-dining restaurant captures memories of the very last bite of rice and curry in a stunning tasting menu executed with finesse and an eye on heritage.; tasting menu Bt 3,400 per person

Fran’s Brunch and Greens

Chalee Kader: Fran's
Courtesy of Fran’s

It’s all about decadent brunch bites set in an idyllic, bright house fitted with a glass sunroof, surrounded by lush vegetation. Here, Chalee teams up with restaurateur, Atchara ‘Pla Iberry’ Burarak (Thong Smith/Rosniyom/Iberry) for mouthwatering dishes like the velvety scrambled egg topped with a slab of maple-glazed bacon. Rumor has it the restaurant is fully booked until 2023 but if you’re the patient kind, they also take a few walk-ins.; average cost of food for two Bt800

Chalee Kader’s Favorites to Eat, Drink and Take a Quick Break

Chalee Kader: Izaki and Thaipioka Bar
FROM LEFT: Courtesy of Izaki; Courtesy of Thaipioka

Fine Dining “I always enjoy going to Canvas for the food, art, and inspiration that Riley draws from his large palette of local ingredients. It’s quite breathtaking. Go with an open mind to enjoy the experience.”

Lunch “Izaki on my day off is always top on the list.”

Bar “When I can find the time, you can find me having drinks at Thaipioka.”

VisitSakon Nakhon Province in the Isaan region is one place I love to visit, especially for the food at Pai Lom, a legendary spot that’s been open since 1978 and specializes in all kinds of beef dishes. The province, which is surrounded by mountain ranges and feels very local, serves me well as a quiet escape from Bangkok.” 


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