‘I like to confuse and surprise people’, says Bangkok-based chef Gaggan Anand

When we meet at Bandra’s Taj Land’s End, Gaggan Anand, is only just coming out from the influence of an excellent biryani lunch. “Do you remember that MTV gag from the ’90s by Cyrus Broacha in which he sings ‘Mere sapnon ki biryani kab aayegi tu’. I feel like I’ve now entered that land of sapnon ki biryani, so I’m having a good time,” he says. What Anand is looking forward to, he tells me, is sampling a wide variety of dishes as he travels across Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai in 13 days, in collaboration with Taj hotels. This is the second pop-up tour that the Bangkok-based chef is doing with the hotel chain, and it is going to be like a “rock concert tour”. “Not that I’m as big as any rock star,” Anand says, “but these days, chefs are the new rock stars.”He would know about that. Since he opened his eponymous restaurant in Bangkok in 2010, Anand, 39, has been feted as one of the world’s most inventive chefs, and has been lauded for his revolutionary take on Indian food. The boundary-pushing food at Gaggan — with a menu that is famously written using only emojis — has led to the restaurant being regularly declared as one of the best in Asia.For Anand, the magic comes from playing with people’s perception and expectations about food. “You look at my menu and you see an eggplant, so you believe that’s the dish you’re getting. But then what comes to the table is a cookie, and you wonder how that is possible. How can anyone make a cookie out of an eggplant? But that’s what I like to do. I like to confuse and surprise people,” says Anand. It is this desire to confound expectations that has led to the creation of dishes such as his signature Yogurt Explosion, a sphere of yogurt that explodes with the flavours of dahi chaat or Charcoal, a deceptively-titled and cleverly-presented version of Amritsari Fish Tikka. Given the huge success of Gaggan and the universal salute Anand has received as a culinary visionary, it came as a shock when he announced this year that the restaurant would cease operations in 2020.

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