Cristina Bowerman: here’s how Gaggan charmed me

The chef from Glass went to Bangkok, to the number one restaurant in the Asia’s 50Best. She was thrilled. Here’s her story

20-09-2017

Cristina Bowerman visited Gaggan Anand, the first Asian chef in the 50 best, in the middle in this funny photo

A few months ago I accepted the invitation to participate in the World Gourmet Festival in Bangkok. What an opportunity! I couldn’t wait to explore everything. I spent these months researching, reading books on Thai food, looking for info on typical products and their characteristics and most of all studying the chefs who’re making a mark by bringing Thai food to the top of the world’s lists. Such as Le Du (whom I saw prepare a spectacular lunch), the Sühring brothers, two German twins (one of whom used to work with Heinz Beck) who are making themselves known thanks to their cuisine full of fantasy, flavour and elegance, 80/20bkk with chef Andrew Martin (who made me dream with a Tartare with green curry and larvae). With no hope to find a place in neither of these restaurants I tried to make reservations and instead, by magic, I made it.

Restaurant Gaggan

Restaurant Gaggan

But most of all, Gaggan comes to my mind. I had no hope whatsoever, given you need to reserve very long in advance. But since I always try to see the glass as half empty, after a series of attempts I found a place thanks to the intercession of an angel named Ellen!

Gaggan Anand’s kindness and hospitality were outstanding.

See, one of the things that struck me the most of what I saw in Bangkok was the hospitality and kindness of people, even when, as in this case, they’re at the top of the 50 Best Asia! Another thing that struck me? Traffic! It’s absurd, chaotic beyond imagination, but you won’t hear a horn or drivers fighting. I wonder how they can be so calm, even though this too perhaps is connected with the gentle attitude I noticed everywhere, in a culture of awaiting that induces them to face any unforeseen event as a step that requires no other energy than waiting for it to pass. But this is perhaps another story.

Gaggan Anand with two members of his staff

Gaggan Anand with two members of his staff

Back to Gaggan. He’s transformed his food into a cultural vessel. During the dinner you can notice the culinary heritage deriving from the British domination over India, which he explains at length; you come across the history of curry, learn about the lifestyle in Bangkok and how Gaggan communicates with the world of food. Dining at Gaggan’s has little to do with what we usually imagine as a dinner. We’re in a different world, in a magic place in which every bite-size dish is a fragment of history. His history: since his childhood to our days, you can learn about a piece of India, where he lived, and a cooking philosophy that, for instance, led him to eliminate freezing. Everything is fresh. Always.

A bite-size dish at a time with a very fast rhythm. Every time you’re left unsettled and think: he won’t find me as ill prepared next time. But then it happens that a tasting arrives that is even more surprising than the previous one. Gaggan is a chef with an extraordinary emotional energy, an incredible creativity that leads him to change his dishes constantly (and not just the content, but the vessel too!), and to show a generosity I’ve rarely seen.

Some of the fantastic dishes tasted by Cristina Bowerman

Some of the fantastic dishes tasted by Cristina Bowerman

Besides, he loves Italy and Italians. He introduced me to all the guests at the chef’s table stressing proudly stressing that I’m Italian, as if Italy was somewhat a part of him. For sure it’s part of his kitchen, given there are three cooks from Italy in his brigade!

Some of the 35 most significant bite-size dishes I’ll always remember? Marshmallow and foie, Meringue with tuna belly, a Matcha tea that had nothing to do with tea, a totally raw scallop. Curry, in infinite versions, always present. But the essential thing is not with which dish or ingredient will Gaggan surprise you: the important thing is that he decides where he’s taking you, you must just abandon yourself, sometimes without understanding, and let yourself roll from one side to the other, as if on a boat in the floating market in Bangkok. At the end, when you get off and try to find your normal balance, it’s inevitable that you wonder what happened. An experience I’ll save for many years. Thank you!


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