Chef Gaggan Anand’s gastronomical experiments with Indian cuisine arrive in New Delhi for a 20-day Residency.
Starting February 18 until March 18, Gaggan promises a ‘culinary opera’ for 35 patrons every night. The meal, priced at a hefty ₹50,000 with alcohol, and ₹40,000 without alcohol (all inclusive), has not deterred the city’s gourmands. On February 1 — the first day of bookings — the hotel clocked 150 reservations.
It is homecoming for the chef, who is in the capital for a month, with a unique culinary experience. Shutting shop for a month in Bangkok and bringing his entire team to Hyatt Regency, the venue for the 20-day Gaggan Residency, is a brave move. That is what makes him the man he is — a rebel and a risk-taker.
On a journey to change the perception of Indian food internationally, Gaggan describes his cooking as “progressive Indian”, where he lets science and innovation take over, while retaining the flavours of his homeland. His mastery has earned him several titles — his eponymous restaurant in Bangkok, Gaggan, headlined Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for four years in a row, from 2015 to 2018.
After a split with his partners, the celebrated chef opened his own space, Gaggan Anand, in Bangkok, in 2019. Only a few miles away from the original outpost, this one is a “communal and intimate 14-seater theatre with front row seats to their open kitchen,” according to the official website. In March 2021, his new restaurant ranked fifth in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List, winning the Highest New Entry Award.
There is much curiosity around his Delhi menu. While Gaggan hasn’t divulged details — even the pricing was kept secret till bookings opened — it is certain that the 25-course degustation menu will highlight the chef’s unique interpretation of, and contemporary twist to, traditional Indian dishes.
In an interview at the hotel, he reveals that the preparations for the Residency began in September 2022. As many as 14 crew members from Bangkok will recreate the experience in the national capital. Further, Gaggan states there will be generous use of local and seasonal produce. While he was here in the last week of January for a press interaction, he visited popular Delhi markets like Chandni Chowk and Chittaranjan Park for inspiration.
“We have 25 textures, 25 temperatures, 25 sensualities, 25 emojis, 25 emotions, 25 techniques and most importantly my 25 years of cooking,” he says.
Looking back on his career, the chef says he started his journey as a culinary student at IHMCT Kovalam, Kerala. It was there that his first cooking instructor recognised his talent, as he made caramel pudding, bread rolls and mashed potatoes, amongst other dishes.
It is safe to assume that as one of the world’s greatest Indian chefs, there must be intense pressure to perform, particularly in India. In true Gaggan style, he answers, “No pressure at all, it’s all very easy. I am just having fun with the inspiration that comes up in our daily life. That’s also why we are doing this residency: to reinvent and recreate.”
Nostalgia on the menu
Though Gaggan delights in creating complex, clever menus, there is nothing more comforting for him than simple home-cooked food. Born to Punjabi parents who lived in Kolkata, he continues to harbour a special love for the city.
Stating that bhetki will also be a part of his India menu, he says “My soul is Punjabi, but my heart is Bengali. Through this Residency, I will bring memories on the plate. It’s completely my memories in India as a child growing up, and the food I enjoyed eating,” he confesses.
The menu will be flamboyant, intricate and spun together with familiar Indian flavours. There are momos inspired by the good old methi mushroom malai , for example. “It takes three chefs to make it, but I can promise it will be the tastiest food you will have,” says the chef, adding that there is also a chana masala which he will present in a paper-like glass. Some of his other quintessential offerings like Lick it Up and Yoghurt Explosion will also feature.
Gaggan clearly wants to win over the city with local ingredients from India, woven together with storytelling. “It’s an experience where there is chaos, like yin and yang – on one hand are my chefs, on the other sit my guests. We will do 25 courses in 2.5 hours, just like how we do it in Bangkok. It will be a dimly-lit restaurant, where you can either see the chef or your food,” he laughs.
This makes us ponder how he seamlessly juggles the roles of a culinary maverick and performer. Gaggan lets us in on a secret: he wanted to be a professional drummer, but ended up going to a culinary school because it seemed more practical. “It is a dream that remains unfulfilled. This has taken shape in the theatre and opera of my cuisine,” he reveals, “I use my knowledge of music for a rock and roll fantasy.”
Bringing Gaggan to India is the start of the many experiences that Hyatt Regency Delhi has planned for its guests, as it completes 40 years in the capital this year. From February 18 to March 18 for dinner. Call +91 8447613424 / +91 98713 86905