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There was big shifts at the top of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List last night as journalists, chefs and people from across the food industry were in Singapore to hear which restaurant would be crowned the Best in Asia for 2015. The crowd gasped at the announcement that last year's winner, Nahm in Bangkok run and owned by chef David Thompson, had dropped to 7th position. It’s at this point they knew things were changing but noone predicted the mantle of Asia’s Best would be passed Gaggan - a restaurant just 5km away from Nahm.
Owned and operated by the charismatic and downright humble chef Gaggan Anand, Gaggan is a restaurant that serves up Indian street food that’s been deconstructed and reconstructed with a number of modern gastronomy techniques that propel simple and traditional Indian street food into complex and playful dishes.
Anand had to wipe away tears and gain composure before his press conference, explaining that he’d called his mum in India who was worried because he was crying so much. The chef quickly calmed and explained that they were of course tears of elation. “It’s overwhelming and this is the proudest I have been in my life… I had eyedrops but they didn’t work.”
“It’s a new version of Indian food in Thailand, Bangkok - how confused must I be? I’m blessed with these two worlds. I feel great, proud to do what I dreamt about and do it in the time that I thought I could do.” Anand was quick to point out that the chefs that came before him were some of his biggest inspirations and even spoke about the advice David Thompson has given recently about growing up and becoming a more adult like chef.
It was China that once again dominated the list with 16 restaurants, the same number as in 2014, followed by Singapore with 10 and Japan with eight. But the big surprise on the night and one that seemed to get everyone excited was the announcement that Cambodia and the Philippines would both have a restaurant on the list for the first time.
It was the Cuisine Wat Damnak restaurant with chef Joannès Rivière that entered the list at number 50 as the S.Pellegrino Best Restaurant in Cambodia, followed quickly at number 48 with chef Tony Boy Escalante and his Antonio’s restaurant in the Philippines. Escalante and Rivière were both applauded massively by the crowd who were excited to welcome two new countries onto the list. “It was amazing", said Escalnte, “it’s the first time the Philippines to be recognised at such an prestigious awards ceremony and I hope that the chefs in the Philippines will step up more.”
Escalante, radiating with pride and sticking out his chest, added: “I’m honoured and humbled… Being a chef in the Philippines before meant you had to have money to study abroad but now there’s a lot of culinary schools there and the restaurant scene in the past five years has really blown up… I’m so happy”.
South Korea, which had just one restaurant on the list in 2014, came back strong in 2015 with three restaurants now on the list. With the Jungsik restaurant, which was the highest entry at number 20 in 2014, jumping a further 10 places to 10th on the list.
The Chef’s Choice award went to Richard Ekkebus at the Amber restaurant in Hong Kong who said he was honoured and proud to have the Chef’s Choice trophy in his hand. Highest climber award went to Hajime in which was up from 42nd in 2014 to 14th place.
The best pastry chef award went to Hidemi Sugino in Tokyo, the best Female Chef award was for Vicky Lau at The Tate Dining Room in Hong Kong and the biggest applause of the night came for Lifetime Achievement winner Tetsuya Wakuda who was given a standing ovation by the crowd.
Stay tuned for an interview with the winning chef Gaggan Anand, coming soon!