Gaggan Anand, chef-owner of the two-time winner of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, will close his eponymous Bangkok restaurant in 2020 to start a new venture in Japan. The Kolkata-born cook has been collaborating with chef Takeshi Fukuyama of La Maison de la Nature Goh in Fukuoka for the past year and says that after a decade of Gaggan he will open a 10-seater in the Japanese city.
Here he talks to us about the impact of being voted The Best Restaurant in Asia; his budding relationship with Chef Goh; and why the time has come for him to invest in fresh young talent in Thailand.
On the first year as No.1 in Asia:
Whether we’re No.1 or No.10, it doesn’t matter – if we’ve been given the responsibility of being the best restaurant in Asia, we just want to make sure that every guest feels it.
Every night before I go to sleep I look at Instagram. I want to see who checked in at Gaggan because that’s the most genuine platform. If I’m not at the restaurant, I can still see how the night went.
I’m happy with my team – they make me shine. There have been times in the last couple of years where I’ve sent my chefs a picture from Instagram and said their presentation was not good. If 95% of customers are happy, I think I’ve done the job.
The first year has been fascinating; there’s been a lot of attention. Suddenly India recognises me and gave me awards like GQ Man of the Year.
Asia’s 50 Best showed the world that Asia has equal potential as Europe, France, London, Japan, New York.
These awards also allowed us do what we want to do with the menu. Being No.1 gave us the platform to have more confidence in ourselves. So in the last year, me and my partner, Rajesh, have decided to be more bold.
People who are not in the list think this is all bullshit but those who are in the list need it and those who are not in the list want it. In the end my restaurant is full for a month and that’s the biggest achievement for Thailand. This country never has a restaurant with a full house.
On opening a new restaurant in Fukuoka:
Gaggan has five more years to go and in 2020 we’ll finish – I’m 100% sure of it. I’m going to relocate to Japan. I go there so often that I need to make a home there.
In Japan, I’ll have a 10-seater restaurant, open only on weekends. I want to do something that has never been done and I want to be there. The only criticism is that I’m not at Gaggan every day and I can’t be – I’m not a machine.
Chef Gaggan with Chef Goh
Goh is an interesting episode in our kitchen’s life. When I went to Fukuoka for the first time I was told I must go to [La Maison de la Nature] Goh. It wasn’t Michelin-starred but I was told he was one of the most famous chefs cooking French-Japanese food. You can’t get a table for two months.
Goh was the first chef I met from Japan who was so open. I told him I needed some plates and he drove two hours to Arita and took me to every porcelain maker. Today I have 20-30% of my dishes served on Arita porcelain.
When we created Goh and Gaggan together it was like Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck or the Beatles and Ravi Shankar – two very different worlds, telling an experience.
GohGan made me happy and made him happy. He got exposure to what was new and I got exposure to what was old.
We made so many Japanese people cry. People were emotional when they were eating. I told them, “This is not Gaggan’s food, this is not Goh’s food, this is GohGan’s food.”
It’s not about two famous chefs, it’s about two people with similar minds. Thailand doesn’t have seasons so I need a place to go and create seasonal menus. Japan gives me that opportunity. We’re going to do GohGan three times a year – twice a year I’ll go to Fukuoka and once a year Goh will come to Bangkok.
On investing in new restaurants:
I’m becoming an investor in talent. It’s about young chefs who come to Gaggan – they cook and I see they have raw talent and I invest in them. That’s why I’m investing in other restaurants, like Sühring.
Sühring is run by two very talented twin chefs [Thomas and Mathias Sühring] from Germany. They came to me and I said they should have their own restaurant. I spoke to my partners and within about 24 hours we were a 49% stakeholder.
Sühring is a beautiful house in the middle of Bangkok, amazing-looking, completely different. They came up with new German cuisine.
Bangkok is such a multicultural country and this has now become a focus of fine food. We’re catching up with Singapore, Tokyo and Shanghai. Famous chefs are coming here with their Michelin stars and opening restaurants.