Always Moving Forward: Progressive Indian in Bangkok by Chef Gaggan Anand
Gaggan Anand, Chef at Gaggan, named the #1 restaurant at the 2018 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ and is #5 on 2018 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, didn’t get there by playing it safe. He cooks progressive Indian food at his restaurant in Bangkok, and if guests are expecting a formal experience, they may be surprised that 22 of the 25 courses are eaten using hands, in keeping with Indian tradition. We were in San Francisco at the #50BestTalks where Gaggan mentioned that with his cooking “I like to intimidate people (in a good way). Food is the real hero, not the chef.” With plans to close Gaggan in 2020 and move to Japan to open a new concept, it’s his time to “leave this success behind and move on to the next.” Aspire Lifestyles’ Director of Dining, Ann Hill, sent a few questions to Chef Gaggan. Lively, fun and inspirational, we think he’s a bit of a hero, too.
Aspire Lifestyles: Aspire Lifestyles: You’re an Indian chef whose restaurant is located in Bangkok. What do you want the world to know about the cuisine of your country and the cuisine of your restaurant?
Gaggan Anand: My Cuisine is known as “Progressive Indian Cuisine”. The world has good knowledge of my cuisine by now, but when I started the idea was to put Indian cuisine on the fine-dining map of the world. Indian Cuisine was always known as Curries and Naan, whereas it’s much more and much deeper than that.
Aspire Lifestyles: Having achieved the #1 spot on The Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2015 (and every year since), was there any trepidation about ‘what’s next’ after winning? Once you achieved the #1 position did it inspire new goals that you may not have set if you hadn’t otherwise reached #1?
Gaggan Anand: Being #1 obviously brought us the recognition and also we were known by then. It surely increases your business but, we are always creating and innovating, and it has nothing to do with the ranking. It has to do with the creativity. We kept becoming #1 because maybe we were progressing every year in the process of creating constantly. So, ranking is great and rewarding but we don’t operate on the basis of that. We are a passion oriented organization.
Aspire Lifestyles: You’re closing your restaurant in 2020. I’m sure it’s bitter-sweet to let go of one restaurant before opening a completely new project in Fukuoka, Japan, in addition to your more casual concepts in Bangkok. With an end date in sight, are there any special plans and will you keep any dishes from Gaggan on menus, notably your ‘Yogurt Explosion’?
Gaggan Anand: No. that dish will go away with Gaggan.
Aspire Lifestyles: What is the most important value in cooking that you teach and stress to your kitchen team?
Gaggan Anand: Keep Cooking. Keep tasting. Keep creating. Keep innovating. Be in the kitchen.
Aspire Lifestyles: What has been your most memorable food destination? Why?
Gaggan Anand: So many of them. Can’t name one. I love Argentina, Japan, India. Every city and country has something amazing to offer and I love discovering cuisine and cities.
Aspire Lifestyles: What is your thought on bloggers and diners on social media vs. established restaurant critics?
Gaggan Anand: Hahahaha. If someone has a good palate and great sense of eating and loves food, they are a foodie. Well, about following what they’re writing about, I have no comments.
Aspire Lifestyles: We’ve read that you love rock music and are an accomplished drummer. Which musician or band would you like to cook for in a casual, private setting to chat, eat and maybe hear some of their music?
Gaggan Anand: Foo fighters.
Aspire Lifestyles: Do non-chef family and friends ever invite you to their home for dinner and cook for YOU?
Gaggan Anand: Yeah…why not?? hahaha
Aspire Lifestyles: People come to your restaurant for special occasions that become life moments. For you, it’s your day to day job description. What constitutes a really great day at work for you and can you tell us about any that stand out?
Gaggan Anand: Keep the guests happy.
Aspire Lifestyles: One evening you get to take 5 chefs (present or past) to dinner at any restaurant in the world. Which chefs do you bring along with you and where do you take them (aside from your own restaurant)? Why those chefs and why that restaurant?
Gaggan Anand: No answer to that… I have many chef friends. I love going out. I love taking people out. Can’t pick 5.
Aspire Lifestyles: How has your placement on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list changed your life?
Gaggan Anand: Same as above. We don’t base our success on rankings.