On June 20, the Foo Fighters played the first full-capacity arena show in New York City since the start of the pandemic—a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden.
“It wasn’t bloody Justin Bieber or Billie Eilish, it was the Foos,” Gaggan Anand, the famed chef behind his eponymous Bangkok restaurant, says excitedly over the phone. He was there that night, and fondly recalls watching a teary-eyed Dave Grohl open the concert with the band’s 2002 hit, Times Like These.
“He sang, ‘It’s times like these you learn to live again. It’s times like these you give and give again,’ and that really captured the idea of life after Covid-19,” says Anand. “I’m an artist, and I haven’t been able to do what I want to do, what I need to do. I want to cook again.”
The spirit of rock and roll plays an important role in his purpose as a chef. For Anand, cooking is a balancing act of rebellion and respect. His respect is for ingredients, for the camaraderie of the kitchen. Yet he is driven by a desire to rattle the cage, to rebel against what the world thought it knew about Indian cuisine.
In his feature episode on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series, Anand says that if a country like India, which has “such a deep knowledge about food” isn’t represented in the world at the right level, it’s “a disgrace”.
“And that is our fault,” says Anand, who has spent over ten years showcasing India’s potential on the global fine dining stage. “What hasn’t been done in Indian food, is no one thought it lavish. It’s the lack of motivation, the lack of guts, where we’d rather focus on opening diner style curry houses that mass produce food.”
Anand opened his now-closed restaurant, Gaggan, in Bangkok in 2010, serving guests a lengthy menu of “progressive Indian” dishes in a theatrical, fine dining style that most diners were previously only familiar with in the form of French degustation or Japanese omakase.
Anand, who interned at Spain’s legendary El Bulli, helmed by Ferran Adrià, set out to do for Indian cuisine what Adrià did for Catalan cuisine. One of his signature dishes, the “yogurt explosion”, for example, was inspired by El Bulli’s iconic spherified olive.
“It was something fearless and out of this world,” says Anand.