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photo of Bangkok, where Gaggan Anand has his restaurant

Gaggan Anand — Indian Gastronomy. Chef’s Table, V.2 E.6

by | Chef's Table Guide, Series At The Stern | 0 comments

This Chef’s Table episode, the last episode of Volume 2, features Indian chef Gaggan Anand. Check out the previous episode, which featured self-taught Slovenian chef Ana Roš, for something a little different. And head over to the Chef’s Table Guide archives for all entries in this guide.

I liked today’s episode. Gaggan is a self-made man who rose from poverty and eventually became the best chef in Asia. In some ways, his story reminded me a little of the episode on German chef Tim Raue. You’ll also want to check out the episode on Albert Adrià, as elBulli features once again in this episode.

OUT OF POVERTY

Gaggan Anand was born into a poor family in Kolkata, India. His parents sometimes didn’t have enough money to keep the electricity running in their house. But they made sure that Gaggan received a proper education. Eventually, he attended catering school.

After university, he received a lucrative position with a big restaurant group, but quit when he came under pressure. With his brother’s help, he created a successful catering business in his hometown, eventually serving five thousand people per day.

Then, he received an offer to cook at a restaurant called Red — in Bangkok.

At Red, Gaggan achieved a great deal of success. But he wanted to experiment and modernize Indian cooking in the same way Ferran Adrià had revolutionized Spanish cooking at elBulli.

When he tried a couple experimental dishes, however, they flopped. He clashed with the management at Red. One night, after he’d drunk too much, his friends convinced him to open his own restaurant — a restaurant called Gaggan.

Above: Several dishes created by Gaggan Anand at the eponymous Gaggan, including his spherified yogurt (last image).

His new restaurant’s opening delayed by protests in Bangkok, Gaggan had roughly six months of free time. He decided that he wanted to become an apprentice at elBulli.

A cold email landed him the position, and he went off to Spain. He’d decided that he wanted the headline dish of his restaurant to be spherified yogurt, where the most iconic elBulli dish was spherified olive. Olives represented Spain; yogurt represented India. While at elBulli, Gaggan picked up new techniques and new ideas.

He then returned to Bangkok and oversaw the opening of his restaurant, working through the grief of his brother’s death. Initially, he had to cook standard Indian fare while digging himself out of the financial hole caused by the delayed opening. But eventually, the restaurant broke even, and Gaggan found himself able to create new and avant garde dishes. In 2015, Restaurant magazine named Gaggan the best restaurant in Asia.

He’s not a person who sits still, though. Just this past year, in 2019, Gaggan split from his partners and started a new effort, called Gaggan Anand, also in Bangkok. There, he intends to push the boundaries of Indian cuisine even further. Some day, he wants to return to India and bring his cutting edge Indian food back to its source.

I liked this episode because it was different from the others before it. Gaggan’s personality jumps out of the screen. I wasn’t surprised to find out that he’d clashed with multiple business partners. But at his core, he’s effusive and energizing, and so is his food.

If you want to learn more about the feud that led to the closure of Gaggan, check out this article.

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