Why he matters: His mastery over the craft is globally renowned, and he also made it back on the ‘World’s 50 Best’ list. But what makes one really go gaga over Gaggan is his inherent exuberance, writes Rashmi Uday Singh.
Where do I begin? Should I do so with my own goosebumps of joy? At the thought of the standing ovation he received, with cries of, “Ga-ggan, Gaggan!” filling the high-ceilinged hall in Macau, when he was crowned “Asia’s Best Chef” in 2018? That too for the fourth time in a row? Or maybe I should begin with the wild abandon I felt while holding up my dinner plate, after-licking off an edible work of art he had painted on it? It was multi-sensorial dining at its most sensual.
Or maybe, just maybe, I could begin in New York City, where seated on a high stool, I was flanked by Gaggan Anand and the brilliant director of Netfix’s Chef’s Table series, David Gelb. Watching Gaggan’s life story unfurl, beginning from his impoverished childhood in Kolkata, his ambition to be a drummer, and onto being one of the world’s best chefs.
I was equally thrilled to interview him on stage for the high-profile India Today Conclave, where he was an invitee along with the likes of Bill Clinton, or hand him the Culinary Icon Award at the glittering HELLO! Hall of Fame Awards.
Rewind to 2010, to his original Bangkok restaurant where 1 first tasted his electrifying masterpieces. And over the years, I went in to savour them at his popups, four-hands and residencies in Seoul, Delhi, Mumbai and San Francisco. Evolution in revolution. Innovating against all the norms of fine dining. Daring, creative, provocative... Gaggan continues to redefine and reimagine traditional Indian cuisine.
As powerful as his food is his larger-than-life persona as he strides across the globe with his irreverent swagger and infectious smile, collecting accolades and turning his setbacks into comebacks. In 2019, after receiving two Michelin stars and landing the fourth spot among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, he left the establishment that made him famous and started over with Gaggan Anand in Bangkok. The same year, he divorced his wife of seven years, yet continued to stride on... An emblem of defiance and a food-world antihero.
Last month, in Valencia, it was wonderful to welcome him back at No. 17 on the World’s 50 Best list. Both he and his fare defy all labels. We’re not even trying... We’re only waiting To applaud him, as this ambitious antihero takes his place as “The Best‘ in the world!
To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!