“Now seems like a good time to tell you all - I will close Gaggan in 2020.” These were the words Gaggan Anand fed to a room full of international food press just minutes after finding out that his Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok had been voted as Asia’s Best Restaurant for a second year consecutively, “Who knows what I’ll do then”, he said through his trademark cheeky smile, “maybe I’ll start a rock band”.
The Indian chef was once again visibly and audibly shocked as he took the stage at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony to accept the massive award, something him and his family themed team have worked hard to achieve. Could he really close Gaggan? Could a restaurant flying so high really be stopped? He revealed back in 2015 that he would do it but now there was a date, 2020 - just five more years and Gaggan would shutter - but just what would the chef who has taken over Asia do next?
“I think in five years I could be getting to that point where I will become a person who gets grumpy, arrogant and pisses off the customers if I keep doing the same thing without any change… My plan is straight, five years from now I might relocate to Japan. So by 2022 - 22 is my lucky number - I want to open my ‘whatever’ restaurant - perhaps it’s Gaisaki by Gaggan? I don’t know what it is but it has to be in Japan - a six, seven seater restaurant where I can be there everyday.”
It’s a crazy thing to hear from a chef who has just won one of the world’s most prestigious culinary awards for a second time running but for Gaggan, the chef who has taken over Bangkok with a modern take on humble Indian street food, it’s part of his natural evolution - he’s a student of Ferran Adrià and we all know elBulli closed way too early for many observers.
Such a bold statement is bound to grab some headlines in the press but it’s actually five years away and for now, the chef who has a bigger laugh than Buddha has got some major plans for his bustling restaurant in Bangkok.
“Since we became number one, people’s expectations have gone through the roof. All these things are happening around us and we realise that in this race to keep ahead we need more arsenal, more weapons, that’s why we have prioritised a new lab which is currently under construction…There’s so many complexities to Indian cuisine and to go further I must understand them. It’s time to get serious.
Dishes from the chef's latest menu.
“I have some of Ferran's team here helping me, helping to make custom machines for our research. This is a state of the art lab that I don’t think any restaurant in Asia has. We need a lab to go further or we might get to a stagnation point, to develop new things for the kitchen is important and we need that space. If we want to compete with the best of the best we really need a lab. We’re going to work with some Universities to collaborate and investigate things that have never been looked at. I want to investigate, to develop some new products that explore the wonderful textures of Asia ”
Anand is keen to discover, to create and to innovate - all themes instilled into a young Indian chef by the famous Ferran Adria. The formative and most important part of his early career was spent with the Spanish giant: “Ferran is my religion”, he says humbly, “whatever I become it will be because of him from day one”.
“Right after winning the first Asia’s 50 Best award, just two days after that I was having dinner at Tickets with Ferran in Barcelona and that was a big moment for me. After five years of leaving Barcelona as one of his pupils I was coming back with a lot of success - the only one from Asia. He had planted this seed and it had become a small tree and this was the first time I could face him, to come back with something to show to him. This was the first time I felt like I had the courage to stand beside him.”
The room of journalists is taken back when Anand reveals his plans to close Gaggan by 2020 but they don’t know that it’s all part of a bigger plan. The restaurant right now opens 365 days a year - a by product of charging such a small amount for high-end cuisine that requires such a large number of staff to execute and deliver. He knows it’s a model that can’t be sustained forever and Japan - or “Japanification” as he likes to call it - is the chef planning his next stage. He has his first child on the way and it seems he knows that one day a shift will be needed. “When I will do a restaurant in Japan I will cook only on 50 weekends a year - I will give the cream of the cream… Only open weekends and if I’m not there I will close. By this time I hope I will have a number of restaurants to help back me up”, he’s all smiles as he explains the idea, adding: “That’s my dream, that is me.”