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Gaggan Style

Chef Gaggan Anand on what it takes to run a multiple award-winning Indian kitchen.

When Gaggan Anand was growing up,he dreamed of following in the footsteps of his idols,progressive rock group Pink Floyd. “I wanted to become a drummer. Music and rock ’n roll were my life,” he says. Today,Anand’s playing to a global audience but he’s catering to a different sense. He opened his “progressive Indian” restaurant,Gaggan,in Bangkok in December 2010. This year,Gaggan was ranked among the World’s 100 Best Restaurants (rank 66) and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants (rank 10) by Restaurant Magazine,considered a definitive guide to restaurants globally. Along the way,the chef has become the face of contemporary Indian food at home and the West.

Anand wears his stardom lightly. “The goal for the future is simple — work,cook,eat,and listen to rock music,but only at Gaggan. We are still nowhere close to where we want to be. I am Gaggan,my name is on the board and people meet me at my restaurant,but I don’t want to be a poster chef,” he says.

The son of Punjabi parents,Anand grew up in Kolkata and studied food production at Trivandrum,all of which gave him a holistic grounding in Indian food. He went on to work with the Taj group before starting his Thai sojourn. “I took a two-hour flight from India to Thailand to work on a three-month consultancy and then,like a typical Indian in a foreign land,never came back,” he says with a chuckle.

Anand worked with a few restaurants in Thailand before leaving for Spain on a culinary programme at El Bulli,chef Ferran Adria’s culinary bastion that was consistently ranked the best in the world when it was operational. It was here that Anand was exposed to “molecular gastronomy” (a term he and most other adherents hate) and decided to use it in Indian food. “I learned to make Indian food from my mother,aunts and people who cook without any degree but are the best cooks in the world. When I was in Spain,before opening Gaggan,I understood the importance of science in cooking,which,as a chef,we generally ignore. Learning scientific cooking was like attaining culinary nirvana,” he says.

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Anand’s experiments make up what he calls Progressive Indian Cuisine,the highlights of which are dishes such as Chowpati Year 2050 (an Asimov-ian take on papdi chaat with spherified yogurt,mango chutney and potatoes),Indian Foie Gras (mutton brain tossed with ginger and sour cream),and Who You Calling Chicken (chicken curry with fiery hot peppers and coconut). Apart from having fun in the kitchen,Anand took the unusual route of bringing a few Spanish chefs back with him to Bangkok to complement his team of Indian and Thai chefs. “It’s simple,we break it up into ‘Taste: Indian chefs’,‘Presentation and Team Work: Thai chefs’ and ‘Techniques: Spanish, Indonesian,Russian,Japanese and Scandinavian,’” he says,explaining his award-winning equation. Unlike his technical approach to cooking,Anand’s food philosophy is uncomplicated. “Just cook and make sure every guest feels the surprise — the element of fun and the happiness of eating soul food. And,be happy while cooking,” he says.

The final dollop is of music in the kitchen. “Each member of the team gets a chance to play his or her playlist. I listen to everything,from Classic and the ’80s to Dream Theatre. But no Lady Gaga,” he says.

First published on: 25-11-2013 at 03:57:42 am
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