The Gaggan galaxy

In Bangkok, an outline of the constantly expanding universe of the Indian chef. Out of the ordinary projects, ideas and energies

25-01-2018

Gaggan Anand, 39, born in Calcutta, India. He opened restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand, and got to number 7 in the World's 50Best and number 1 in the 50Best Asia for 3 years in a row. A few weeks ago he also got two Michelin stars. He’ll close the restaurant in 2020 and move to Fukuoka, in Japan

«They think tofu is a second-class ingredient but they don’t know what they’re saying. It’s such a fantastic ingredient that in March I’ll open a restaurant entirely dedicated to it. There will be tofu in every dish. It will be an incredible project». Gaggan Anand has so much energy he’s like the volcano that erupted the other night over the snow in Japan. An endless avalanche that means the episode of Chef’s Table dedicated to him, and recorded in late 2015 for Netflix is already dated.

This documentary certified his fame, which had already grown thanks to the title of best restaurant in Asia in 2015 (which he also received the following two years) and the 7th place in the latest World’s 50 Best. It illustrates the swift dawn of this tornado, a man who gave dignity to Indian chefs, removing cobwebs from the brains of those who believe that they only eat chicken tikka and garlic naan in the Subcontinent.

«It’s an insult to the country where I was born», said the 39-year-old in the documentary by David Gelb, «which is made of 28 states and at least 36 culinary traditions that couldn’t care less about political boundaries». In 2007, his very humble origins and an iron willpower catapulted him from India to Thailand. Here he launched the successful Progressive Indian Cuisine claim. It was inspired by his rock music background, which he explored both as a drum player and a guitarist crazy about Pink Floyd, Nirvana and Foo Fighters.

Currywurst, molle and liebe in Bangkok? You can find them at restaurant Sühring, one Michelin star since a few weeks ago

Currywurst, molle and liebe in Bangkok? You can find them at restaurant Sühring, one Michelin star since a few weeks ago

Left to right, Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil, Mexico, in Bangkok for a 4-handed dinner with Gaggan), Thomas Sühring, Gaggan Anand and Mathias Sühring 

Left to right, Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil, Mexico, in Bangkok for a 4-handed dinner with Gaggan), Thomas Sühring, Gaggan Anand and Mathias Sühring 

In the last two years, however, the Gaggan galaxy has expanded greatly, as we discovered during a trip to Bangkok. First of all, Anand has also become a patron/talent scout. In February 2016 he urged twin and ex-colleagues Thomas and Mathias Sühring to open a Progressive German Cuisine restaurant in a villa in the suburbs. «New German Cuisine in Thailand?, they said, What the fuck?!», Gaggan laughs. «Today it’s the most popular restaurant in town. It’s much more beautiful than mine. It looks like a relais & chateaux».

It’s strange, seeing German Pancakes, Bavarian brotzeit and Central European digressions such as Beef steak tartare with Borscht, while it’s 32°C outside and it’s damp, and 3-wheeled tuk-tuks find their way among the orange taxies stuck in traffic. The dining room runs smoothly, thanks also to the two years of experience that Thomas acquired at La Pergola with Heinz Beck: «He taught me a lot», he says. Results have already arrived: one Michelin star and 13th place in the 50Best Asia.

There’s a bright future in front of Garima Arora. The young woman from Mumbai at the helm of Gaa, Gaggan’s second restaurant, opened 10 months ago right in front of her master’s door. «At first, the proximity was a nightmare», says the very good Thai-Canadian restaurant manager Kiki Sontiyart, «but we’ve got used to it now. We’re building a small district serving new cuisine». Gaa has a style that blends Thai and Indian syncretism to Noma’s aesthetics, given the girl has a long experience as Rene Redzepi’s chef de partie. We’ll soon find her at the top of all the existing charts.

Thai crayfish on khakhra, a very popular cracker in western-Indian cuisine. A nice synthesis of the skills of Garima Arora, chef at Gaa, the restaurant right in front of Gaggan

Thai crayfish on khakhra, a very popular cracker in western-Indian cuisine. A nice synthesis of the skills of Garima Arora, chef at Gaa, the restaurant right in front of Gaggan

Gaggan with Vladimir Kajic, the restaurant’s Serbian sommelier. They’ll soon open Wet together, serving "good food, good wines and good music"

Gaggan with Vladimir Kajic, the restaurant’s Serbian sommelier. They’ll soon open Wet together, serving "good food, good wines and good music"

And then there’s the new projects signed directly by the giant from Calcutta. In the spring he’ll open Wet, also right next to Gaggan. This wine bar will serve marvellous natural wines selected by Vladimir Kajic, the Serbian sommelier working in the two-starred flagship restaurant next-door. It will focus on three concepts: “Good food, good wines and good music”. With Asian inspired snacks, biodynamic wines mostly from Austria, and a playlist that will play loud music from Marshall, Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin as well as” Jingle Bells Rock” because Gaggan is the kind of person who enjoys shuffling the cards. He already did so when he opened Meatlicious in Ekkamai, in Bangkok, where they serve exceptional grilled meat, a format that is ready to multiply soon.

On the 8th March he will also open Minara Tofuten, the izakaya specialised in tofu mentioned at the beginning of this article. «The idea, the craziest I’ve ever had, came during one of my 74 trips to Japan in the space of a few years», he says, «The restaurant will be located in an old house. We will seat 35 people serving only a tasting menu for 130 dollars. In order to prepare it, each week I’ll have a container with 15 litres of water sent from Japan: Thai water doesn’t have the characteristics I need. This tofu will have an unprecedented texture. I will cook it for 3 hours in a vacuum pack. It will acquire a texture similar to mascarpone, cream and gelato. You’ll find it as elastic as mozzarella, seasoned with olive oil. I’ll make you reach orgasm».

Gaggan (on the right) with Japanese friend and colleague Takeshi “Goh” Fukuyama. The two chefs will close their respective restaurants by the end of 2020, in order to open Gohgan in Fukuoka, Japan, the following year (photo wonderfruitfestival.com)

Gaggan (on the right) with Japanese friend and colleague Takeshi “Goh” Fukuyama. The two chefs will close their respective restaurants by the end of 2020, in order to open Gohgan in Fukuoka, Japan, the following year (photo wonderfruitfestival.com)

Yet the most awaited opening is expected in 2021. Restaurant Gaggan will close in 2020 in Bangkok and open with a very different appearance in Fukuoka, Japan, 1000 km south-west of Tokyo. «It will be called GohGan», he reveals, «merging my name and that of the restaurant of my future business-partner Takeshi Fukuyama, now at the helm of Maison de la Nature Goh [a French-Japanese restaurant in Fukuoka, now 31st in the 50Best Asia]. We realised we’re a perfect match: what he has, I lack, and vice versa. It will only seat 10 people, and will be open every other month. On the months when we’re closed, we’ll always create a new plot for the following month. It will be crazy. There will be an orchestra. Characters instead of chefs and waiters. An unprecedent concept in cooking history». In the current location in Bangkok the current sous-chef, Indonesian Rydo Anton, should stay. The format is yet to be defined.

Gaggan Anand is a much awaited speaker at Identità Milano, on Sunday 4th March at 11.30 in the  Auditorium. «I’m very happy of this opportunity. I started my career cooking Italian food in Delhi and Mumbai. I made some great spaghetti alla puttanesca and cappellacci. I believe there’s no comparison between Italian and French cuisine. I love you. I’ll make something really crazy». We have no doubt.
The menu at restaurant Gaggan. Details in the next episode

The menu at restaurant Gaggan. Details in the next episode


1. To be continued

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

See also
Here's how Gaggan charmed me by Cristina Bowerman


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