Meet chef Gaggan Anand as he reveals a Dubai restaurant opening
The Indian chef whose restaurant in Bangkok has topped Asia’s 50 Best list for three consecutive years and sits at No 23 on the World’s 50 Best ranking was in Dubai for a pop-up at One & Only Royal Mirage earlier this month. Gaggan Anand also revealed a Dubai restaurant opening, without confirming a location at our media roundtable, “It won’t be Gaggan [his flagship restaurant]. I will do something completely different here. I am ready for Dubai mentally and that’s why I am doing the pop-up.”
The 39-year old Kolkata-born chef’s story portrayed brilliantly on Chef’s Table is one of rags to riches, personifying the mantra of ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ A wannabe-drummer with odd jobs to keep his family afloat, disaster struck him plenty of times. He nearly lost everything when his business partner did a runner, and also when riots broke out in Bangkok, just as he was about to open Gaggan. Aside from this flagship progressive Indian restaurant with a 25-course tasting menu that only costs US$115 and makes him no money, he also owns two other profitable restaurants. Meatlicious is a steakhouse gifted to his wife because his mama does not want him profiting from beef. He broke even in the first six months. His other restaurant, Suhring, boasts modern German fare.
Gaggan’s cooking philosophy dictates, “If you can’t convince, confuse. My cooking is based around the five s’ – salty, sweet, sour, spicy and surprise – all in one bite. That’s our umami.” His current seasonal menu is based on a flurry of emojis, with a sole emoji describing each dish. At his pop-up in Dubai, he served an abridged 18-course version, of which 16 were eaten by hand. Click here for the menu. He entertained us by presenting each course with his larger-than-life personality. Someone that would also do well as a stand-up comedian 🙂
I give you one of 18 courses, of which 16 like this umami-laden ? brisket vindaloo cutlet topped with what looks and tastes like homemade HP brown sauce are eaten by hand ?. The famous emoji menu by @gaggan_anand with each dish simply described by a sole emoji. As he said in my interview “my philosophy is based around the five s’ – salty, sweet, sour, spicy and surprise all in one bite. That’s our umami.” A very special meal last night with a surprise in every bite. A couple of dishes inspired by the ?? and Gaggan entertaining us through every course over three hours. If he’s not a chef he should be a stand-up comedian! Only one more night of his pop-up in Dubai at @ooroyalmirage but I fear it may have already sold out. More in my interview soon. I leave you with his favourite emoji ?. What emoji do you use the most? x #foodivaloves
Here’s a quick fire interview with Gaggan of eight more personal questions:
- What’s your favourite emoji? Can I say it in Dubai?! The ‘hug’. We have a t-shirt at Gaggan, which says, “Hug me. I smell like curry.” [he wore it as his pop-up]. Millennials have taught me. Someone dined at Gaggan and reviewed my menu as emojis, and that inspired me.
- What’s your go-to dish when cooking at home? I love cooking noodles. When I was nine years old, my mother was very sick, so I made Maggi noodles. I wanted to replicate the photo, which had carrots, onions, and other vegetables in it, but it was just f___ing noodles with the spice powder! I was very angry. Later in my life, I started adding other ingredients to it, and that’s how I started cooking. I also love a fried egg, and a gin and tonic!
- What’s been your biggest learning? A poverty lesson; first you need to be rich, satisfied, happy – and only then can you change the world.
- If you weren’t a chef what would you be? What I was before I became a chef. A drummer, but I had an accident – and my economic conditions pushed me to become a chef. A drummer attracts more girls than a chef! My favourite musician is Pink Floyd. I am a rock and roll kind of chef. I write music through my food; there are some greatest hits and some new stuff.
- Where and what would you like to do when you retire? I am closing Gaggan in three years, in 2020. I want to get out at my peak and leave on a high. I will open a 12-seat weekend-only restaurant in Fukuoka, Japan with my friend and chef Takeshi Fukuyama (of La Maison de la Nature Goh) called Gohgan. A passion project. Gaggan will reopen as a curry house that my current staff will own and run. That’s my retirement plan.
- How would you like to be remembered? I gave Netflix [Chef’s Table] five per cent of me. The rest will be in a book. Here it is [shows us the opening page of his manuscript on his i-pad]. It’s called “For Unlawful Curry Knowledge”. After Chef’s Table, I was approached by many for motivational speeches. I want to die as the most motivating person in the world.
- Who’s the chef you most admire? Ferran Adria; my guru and priest of cooking [he interned there early in his career]. My mother, who taught me how to become an Indian cook. She’s veggie but cooks everything. She doesn’t need to taste the dish but the seasoning is perfect. She cooks from the heart for love; that’s a genius of a chef.
- Where would you like to eat whilst you’re here in Dubai? You have Shake Shack here. I want to eat it on my last day! [His Instagram account also showed him visiting Khan Murjan at Wafi.]
So will we see Gaggan’s Dubai restaurant at One & Only or Atlantis? What’s your favourite emoji?
Meet chef @gaggan_anand as he reveals a Dubai restaurant opening ?. My interview with some more personal quick fire questions really highlight his larger-than-life, funny and extremely driven character. And his favourite emoji ?. Now live on www.foodiva.net (see link in profile). Do you think he will do well to open a restaurant here? ??? #meetthechef #ooresorts