Crafted from the heart

Hot chef Gaggan Anand is making waves in Bangkok with a modern way of serving up traditional Indian cuisine.

MALAYSIA – When it comes to haute cuisine, the last thing you think about is Indian food. While the emphasis is on its taste and texture, not much emphasis is placed on how Indian food is presented other than putting it in fancy pots and adding colourful garnishes.

All that is slowly changing with chefs like Gaggan Anand, the chef and owner of Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok.

Opened in 2010, the restaurant is renowned as a progressive Indian restaurant, and has repeatedly been placed on the Restaurant S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Last year, it was 17th in the magazine’s global rankings, but this year, it is ranked as its best restaurant in Asia and 10th in the world.

As for the chef born in the Indian city of Kolkota to Punjabi parents, Gaggan worked in several restaurants around the world before deciding to branch out on his own.

He was the first Indian chef to intern with Chef Ferran Adria’s molecular gastronomy research team at the famed El Bulli.

Gaggan is cooking for a private dinner at Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur. The invitation-only event is managed and organized by Aspire Lifestyles.

In an email interview, Gaggan explains his career choice and also cooking style.

What really inspired you to take up cooking as a profession?

“Since I was a young boy, studies were never a priority for me. Instead, music and cooking rocked my world. In fact, music ruled my path until I attended the catering college in Trivandrum and worked as a trainee with the Taj Group. That’s where my calling as a chef really started.”

The food your serve is described as progressive Indian haute cuisine. Describe that to us.

“I use science and modern technology to create a modernist and progressive re-interpretation of traditional recipes. I’ve always believed in making an impact and putting India on the global fine dining map. The only way we could do that is to take an audacious risk of doing the impossible: serving progressive Indian cuisine.”

Who is your culinary god?

“I would probably say it is my mentor and guru, Ferran Adria.”

What is the common comment people make about your food when they have had it for the first time?

“[They often say] how surprising it is to envision how the traditional Indian food they’ve known [compare to] how they actually taste at Gaggan.”

How did you incorporate what you have learned from Adria and his molecular gastronomy into your cooking? What does Adria think about your food?

“It was in the labs of my guru and mentor that I gained instant nirvana, and that gave me a head full of ideas on how I wanted to transform Indian cuisine.”

You opened Gaggan in Thailand. Why not India or some other country that may have a bigger market for people who like haute cuisine?

“When I arrived in Bangkok in 2007 for a short consultancy, I fell in love with Bangkok and never left. I don’t think it matters where you open your restaurant as long as your heart and soul is in it, it will happen.”

What will you be serving up here in Kuala Lumpur?

“The menu will feature a series of my signature dishes, as well as some dishes inspired by Malaysia.”

What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to cooking?

“I think the most important is to be bold and expressive of what one wants to cook. With heart comes flavor.”

This article was originally published in The Sun Daily, 5 November 2015.