A few hours before the Asia’s Best Restaurants 2016 Awards on 29 February, I meet a relaxed and upbeat Gaggan Anand. When asked, what has changed in the year since I last interviewed him for Foodservice Consultant, he jokes: “Well, I’ve put on 1.1 kilos!”
Anand has gained a reputation for investing in fresh culinary talents, resulting in two new restaurant openings. Last December, he opened Meatlicious, a wood-fired grill with a young international team led by 23-year old French chef Pierre Tavernier as the head chef, Jorge Grande from Honduras as chef butcher, and Carlos Rodriguez from Venezuela as grill chef. Two weeks ago, Sühring opened, a fine dining restaurant introducing new German cuisine to Bangkok by twin chefs Thomas and Mathias Sühring. Gaggan narrates, “They are my good friends from nine years ago. We met over coffee last November. They said they have no money to do their restaurant so my partners and invested 49% of shares.”
Never forgetting his beginnings, Gaggan is committed to paying it forward. “My partners and I, we come from very humble backgrounds. We have realised that in a year, 50% of the income we make we will invest in new talent, to give them new life.”
“Whatever I do next will be putting money as a restaurant owner, not as a chef,” he declares. “I would open 500 or more restaurants but nothing to do with Gaggan.” There are no plans to ever open another Gaggan. He says, “There can never be any other Gaggan. Gaggan is mine. It’s me. That’s it. One Gaggan in Bangkok and it will close in five years from now.
“I’ve spoken to my partners. 2020 is the last year of Gaggan. Why? Because we get saturated. I think at ten years, we’re going to reach the point we don’t want to be cooking anymore. We’re going to be grumpy to the customers. I don’t want to get to that point.”
Anand says a “lab” is also in the works: “It’s the first of its kind in Asia to help us explore what we’ve done. Because what we’ve done in the last five years is very up-to-date. But what we will do in the next five years, we don’t know. I don’t even know what we will do tomorrow. What we can do is play more, have more fun. Then, I’ll do something else after five years.”
And then what? “In five years, I want to relocate to Fukuoka in Japan, because my food tastes completely different in Japan. I think if I started cooking with that attitude every time, I will be able to create food I myself will be satisfied with. Fukuoka is quiet and the most affordable place in Japan.”
Anand is in Fukuoka almost every other month, already laying those foundations. He has already established a strong friendship with Takeshi Fukuyama of La Maison de la Nature Goh (Number 31 in Asia’s 50 Best List this year), famous for his French-Japanese Omakase cuisine. Together, they have started cooking together as “GohGan” twice a year in Fukuoka and once a year in Bangkok.
A year after securing Asia’s top spot, Anand reflects, “I think I’m more expressive. I can now say what I want to say. I am bolder with my food. I can do what I want to do. I’ve got more confidence to say whatever I want.”
“You will miss the buzz here in Bangkok!” I tell Anand. Not missing a beat, he replies that Fukuoka will instead reap the benefits. “I will create buzz there,” he says.