Gaggan: the human factor is food itself

The Indian chef was a star at the congress – with a food cost of 95% and an invitation: «don't lose your dream»

23-03-2018

Gaggan Anand at Identità Milano 2018 (photo Brambilla-Serrani)

«Food is human. The human factor is everything: it’s food itself, it’s us chefs, our guests and those working with us in the kitchen». These were Gaggan Anand’s words on the stage of the Auditorium, his take on the theme of the 2018 congress, in a captivating speech what with music and videos and his usual charisma. Without cooking, he entertained the audience and presented his concept of cuisine, made of emotions and nostalgia. He expresses this with liveliness and a touch of madness at his restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok, two Michelin stars in the first edition of the Red Guide in Thailand, and 3 times at number one in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants (edition 2018 will be on the 27th March in Macao).

Curry and emoji that is to say memories and emotions – The chef got on the stage of Identità wearing a t-shirt that read “Hug me, I smell like curry” which perfectly depicts his ironic and very rock cooking style. On the stage, he restated the profound Indian identity of his dishes and the great, still undiscovered culinary heritage inspiring them. Take curry: «It’s not an Indian word, my mother doesn’t even know what it means. It’s a British word. In India, food is about surviving, it’s about life. There’s no space for anything else. Real Indian cuisine is rustic, it’s street food, but I brought these dishes to fine dining».

Paolo Marchi listens carefully

Paolo Marchi listens carefully

This resulted in the current menu made of 25 bites, which you can mostly enjoy with your hands. Though the presentation follows Japanese aesthetics, India is always there, in the recipes, and in the colours and shapes. As in the case of one of his iconic dishes, Rangoli: a lamb cutlet cooked in a tandoori oven and surrounded by an embroidery made with a cream of sweet potatoes and beetroot, recalling Indian decorative art. «Memory plays an important role in my work, and the same applies to the emotions that move my ideas and captivate my guests», he told the audience. That’s how two years ago he got the idea of a menu illustrated with emojis: «They’re now universal symbols, it’s a game that gets people curious. Clients find out the names of the dishes only at the end», he said. 

Lick it up that is to say how to revolutionise fine dining – Those who know Gaggan’s work know that people love his energetic personality. He’s a volcanic chef, full of warmth and a lover of progressive music. An interview with him is like a roller coaster of ideas and opinions. The same goes with his cuisine. Lick it up was inspired by the title of a song by Kiss, «one of the few entirely dedicated to food», he said. It’s the funniest dish in the menu, it “forces” clients to get out of their comfort zone and experience fine dining in a totally unique way: a composition made of a cream of truffle, green peas, Greek hay and tomatoes, which you must lick straight from the plate.

A provocation and a play on food (perfectly depicted in the video he showed at Identità) which is not exactly for everyone but this doesn’t stop Gaggan: «My food cost is 95%. Margins are low but I believe high quality ingredients, technique and offer are a priority». This is why, he repeated more than once, he’s closing in 2020. He plans to open a small restaurant seating 10 people in 2021 in Fukuoka, GohGan, with his friend and starred chef Takeshi Fukuyama from La Maison de La Nature Goh.

Gaggan with Gabriele Zanatta, who presented his lesson

Gaggan with Gabriele Zanatta, who presented his lesson

«We’re not robots», he said referring to his brigade – He has 48 collaborators from 23 countries but shifts never exceed 9 hours. «My guys are not robots. If a chef is frustrated, the food is affected too», he tells us after the presentation. As for the young cooks in the audience, he points out: «Don't lose your dream». A theme he holds dear, because it’s also connected with his background, and the many difficult moments that preceded success. The message gets across. It is no coincidence that many aspiring cooks kept on stopping him in the corridors or by the stands of the congress, for a photo or a quick word, with the confidence of an old friend.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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