BAN TATIT VILLAGE (THAILAND) - A BANGKOK luxury hotel treated its top clients to a tour of a poverty-stricken village before dazzling them with a lavish feast, ignoring outrage over the event that prompted a boycott by elite chefs.
About 120 guests in black- tie finery ate their way through 10 gourmet courses in the ballroom of Lebua Hotel on Saturday night.
Earlier, Lebua had flown about 30 of its top guests to an elephant camp in northern Thailand, with the idea that seeing the poverty would bring out the altruistic streak in them.
But the trip was almost derailed when the three French chefs slated to cook the feast found out that Lebua was not intending to give any money to charity. They pulled out, saying the idea was 'morally objectionable'.
The bad publicity spooked 20 other top chefs from France, Germany and Japan, who feared that taking part would harm their reputation.
Five other chefs were jetted in from Belgium, Britain, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands to cook the meal.
Highlights of the meal included seafood risotto, scallops with truffles, roasted rack of lamb, neck of Iberico pig - each course accompanied by a different fine Burgundy or Bordeaux.
The hotel later said it would give some money to charity: 4.5 million baht ($197,000) in donations from the hotel and some guests will go towards providing water sanitation for Ban Tatit village and books for its school.
Ahead of the feast, the guests - most of them golfing buddies, suppliers and friends of Mr Deepak Ohri, Lebua's managing director - looked on as the elephants frolicked with their handlers in the village.
After a few hours, the tired guests headed back to Bangkok in a private jet for the US$300,000 (S$414,000) meal which Lebua paid for.
'Gross!' was the reaction of Thailand's English-language Nation newspaper, which wrote in a recent editorial that the dinner cast a 'disturbing spotlight on the disparity between the rich and the poor'.
'We wanted to open people's eyes to a part of the world that needs help,' said Mr Deepak.
'Who better to give poor people what they need than rich businessmen?'
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS