Chef and restaurateur Gaggan Anand is coming to Delhi after 12 years and bringing along his eponymous restaurant for an extended 20-day residency at Hyatt Regency Delhi.
When Gaggan Anand talks, everyone listens. This was evident at the press conference on 23 January at the hotel when Anand announced his Delhi residency.
Anand’s is an oft-repeated yet always intriguing story. A Kolkata-bred Punjabi boy in love with Indian food leaves India to find his feet in the culinary world. He trains under the finest chefs in Europe and applies the learnings at his restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand. In no time, he changes the perception of Indian food from greasy and messy (ugly delicious, if you may!) to nuanced and flavourful. In the years that follow, Anand and his restaurant, Gaggan, go on to bag top honours—including two Michelin stars and the No.1 position on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for four years in a row—and the who’s who of the world wait for months to eat his food. Due to a fallout with investors, though, Gaggan downs shutters in August 2019. Anand is not deterred by this, or the pandemic-induced lockdown that follows. In 2021, he returns with a new restaurant, Gaggan Anand, also in Bangkok, with his old team. The team he refers to as his “rebels”.
It is this team of 14 that will travel with him to Delhi and replicate Gaggan Anand at the Hyatt Regency Delhi. The first of its kind collaboration will run from 18 February-14 March. The 25-course menu, which has not been revealed, promises to feature some of his classics along with unseen dishes; everything will be made with local and seasonal ingredients.
We catch up with Anand after the announcement and talk about all things food. Edited excerpts:
What are the three signature dishes from your menu at the residency?
Lick It Up—looks like spray paint, is a combination of herbs and spices that you need to lick directly off the plate. Yogurt Explosion, a dollop of yogurt on a spoon that explodes in your mouth, consists of varying flavours. And Eggplant In Its Own Burnt Skin is slowly roasted for hours.
How does a chef plan such a vast menu to ensure the guests don’t feel exhausted or overstuffed?
It is like a rapid-fire pop for two hours, like action-adventure pulp fiction with no breaks.
While the Yogurt Explosion has gained superstar status, have you created other such dishes with yogurt?
No, we reached the peak from Day 1 with yogurt and we couldn’t match its success and we never even tried.
For pop-ups and residencies across the world, chefs often carry a few essential ingredients. Is there any such ingredient that you must carry if you are not cooking in your kitchen?
Very technical gastronomical ingredients and our equipment and hands that have the wisdom to make magic with; we source everything else for the kitchen locally wherever we are.
What happens behind the scenes during residencies?
There’s no behind the scenes. Everything happens in front of the guests. We are recreating our kitchen in Bangkok at Hyatt Regency Delhi and the tables will overlook what’s happening inside.
You say food is an act of love, even a rebellion. Can you share how your menu displays that?
Well, the menu is my passport with empty pages to stick 25 emojis as stickers that denote what the dish is going to be and not in the order of what is going to be served, haha! But that is not what we are going to be doing in Delhi, we have something new coming.
How are you preparing for the palate of Delhi, which is notorious for its love of butter chicken and ‘karahi paneer’?
I will disappoint them all! (laughs). We don’t know how to cook those dishes. Maybe after the residency at Hyatt Regency Delhi, we will learn and then cook it in Bangkok.
Why did you choose a residency over a pop-up?
Simple, we will operate as a restaurant, have lots of fun while at it, stay long enough to leave a good taste in the mouth and then never come back again (laughs)! Or maybe open here, that’s why a few days can’t give the real picture. This is a way better approach to learn how to live in India.
Can you talk about your association with Hyatt; should we expect more residencies in India?
Right now, our focus is to finish this one well. The Hyatt Regency Delhi management has been kind enough to accommodate me and my time and happy to offer us a space and give complete liberty in what we want to do.
You said the ambience at Hyatt will match that at Gaggan in Bangkok—can you share the significance of the ambience?
If we share, then we ruin the surprise; let’s keep it a secret...
Your team has stuck by you in hard times—what role do you think a team plays in the success of a chef?
Now some of them are my business partners. Money can’t buy love but without money there’s no love, it’s a hard-held lesson so there has to be balance, we work hard and we take enough breaks. That’s the reason why after this residency we will be working four days a week in Bangkok.
What are your thoughts on Indian food in the global restaurant industry now?
It’s a big hit. More Indian chefs are getting global fame, and this is just the beginning.
What are you looking forward to most in 2023?
All the Foo Fighters ’concerts that will happen this summer.
18 February-14 March, only dinner, 25 courses, at Hyatt Regency Delhi; ₹50,000, including taxes, per person with unlimited premium alcohol; ₹40,000 per person without alcohol.
Anubhuti Krishna writes on food, travel, culture and design