Why The Man Behind Asia’s Best Restaurant Can’t Set Up Shop In India
“Back home, our restaurants run like industries. My restaurant (Gaggan) runs like an art house,” says Chef Gaggan Anand when asked about setting up shop in India. And that’s perhaps the unique approach that has earned his Bangkok venture the title of the best restaurant in Asia for the last three years.
BloombergQuint caught up with the chef in Mumbai earlier this week. And three minutes into a conversation with Anand, you know he’s not in the restaurant business for the money, for him it’s a way of life. Anand, 39, was born in Kolkata, and he loves coming back to India to meet family, friends and sometimes, also to whip up a special meal at a popup restaurant in a metro city.
His only criticism of his own food in Bangkok is that it’s not as authentic as he’d want it to be. On his trips back home, he’s happy that he can cook Indian food with authentic local ingredients. But, the “Gaggan experience” doesn’t come cheap. A sitting at a popup restaurant in Mumbai would cost you nearly $300 (around Rs 19,200). Even a meal at the original restaurant in Bangkok costs nearly $200.
There is no financial gain. We don’t make money at Gaggan. Our food cost alone is 95 percent... My PR is my food. So, why not give the benefit to the customer- thumb rule. And that’s completely against the industry. That’s why I can’t open in India. How do I sell a loss venture? The guy would complain...Gaggan Anand, Chef and Owner, Gaggan Restaurant
Gaggan has become famous the world over for its specially curated emoji menu that has redefined Indian street food using molecular gastronomy, while still preserving the authentic flavours.
According to Bloomberg, Gaggan is a safe bet to grab a spot on the first Michelin Guide for Bangkok which will be out in December.
But, Anand is doing the unthinkable. He is going to shut shop in Bangkok in 2020. He says, “It’s suicidal actually. For every business interest, it should be kept alive and rolling. But, I don’t want to end like a sports star who keeps the TRP on. I don’t want to be a person who’s told to exit by age. I prefer leaving on the top.”
Anand isn’t giving up on cooking. He has other plans that take him to Fukuoka in Japan, where he wants to set up restaurants, inspired by Buddhist principles to avoid boredom and burnout.