The triumphant entrance of Louis Vuitton into haute cuisine with the ingenious Chef Gaggan Anand

Feb 16 2024, 13:03
Chronicle of a rock-themed dinner with the most famous chef in Bangkok (opening a new venue with Louis Vuitton)

The opening is a bang: Louis Vuitton chooses Gaggan Anand for its first fine dining experience in Southeast Asia. Reservations start on March 1 for what promises to be one of the most anticipated openings of 2024 in Bangkok. The high-end fashion brand is no stranger to the culinary scene, as evidenced by Le Café V and Sugalabo V in Osaka (2020), the luxury bistro inside Hotel White 1921 in Saint Tropez led by Chef Arnaud Donckele and pastry chef Maxime Frederic (2023), and the LV Dream in Paris where Maxime Frederic takes the spotlight (2023).

The meeting between Gaggan Anand and Louis Vuitton

But the one in Bangkok is a different story because behind the project is the brilliant and unpredictable chef who brought Indian cuisine to the world stage. The opening takes place inside the Gaysorn Amarin shopping center in Ratchaprasong, north of Lumphini Park, one of the few green spaces in the Thai capital. A creative collaboration between the French fashion house and Gaggan will offer an eight-course lunch and a seventeen-course dinner with prices ranging from 4,000 to 8,000 baht (between 100 and 200 euros, roughly). In the kitchen, alongside the chef from Calcutta, who was also featured in an episode of the famous Chef's Table on Netflix, is the Indian chef's protégé: Vix Rathour, born in London, who wrote to Gaggan on Instagram during the pandemic, proposing collaboration. Dreams do come true, one might say, and for Vix, it did.

"I've been working on this opening since last March," explains Gaggan Anand as we taste specialty coffee inside Sukhumvit's PPal. Gaggan is a big coffee enthusiast, and in Bangkok, in addition to being a partner in the Sühring restaurant, he has also opened the Green&Bean café, along with the Gaggan Anand and Ms Maria & Mr Singh restaurants dedicated to Mexican and Indian cuisine. "We have worked closely with Louis Vuitton for a year," he continues. "I have met designers, visited production sites, and everything has been studied in detail. I love fashion, and I think working on this fine dining project, the first in this part of the world, is a great opportunity. I have many talented people around me; I want to empower them, give them the opportunity to grow, and this project is for them." One might think that the new opening somehow contradicts his 14-seat restaurant open from Thursday to Sunday with two evening shifts, where Gaggan, in a show dinner, freely addresses themes ranging from sustainability to local sourcing. But it's not the case: as Walt Whitman said, "I am vast, I contain multitudes," and Gaggan's are immense and touch the soul.

Gaggan's universe: food, rock, friendship, redemption

There are those related to music, the true guiding thread of his life since childhood when, in Calcutta, he played the drums dreaming of a rock star career. There are those related to the deepest friendship, to the sense of family that shines through with his entire brigade (aka The Rebels), to the humanity behind every work and entrepreneurial choice. There are the multitudes of social, cultural, and gastronomic redemption toward Indian cuisine, always relegated to familiar comfort food, which, thanks to him, rises to the forefront of unprecedented fine dining. And then there are those of the visionary Gaggan, the caring father and partner, the man who opens his doors for a homemade dinner among colleagues to break down barriers, to establish an immediate connection with those who come from the other side of the world "just" to experience that progressive Indian cuisine that is a spectacle, avant-garde, concreteness, tastes, flavors, and a lot of emotion.

Gaggan Anand: at the restaurant like a rock concert

After all, the man who duets with Ed Sheeran between a break dedicated to street food in Chinatown and an incursion into his establishments has an extra gear. And this is evident to the world. Ranked 17th in The World's 50 Best Restaurants (2023) just a few months after the opening and in fifth position in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants (since 2021), he is not new to constantly challenging himself, thinking, and realizing new immersive projects. He did it by leaving India for Thailand, but also by deciding to close his previous restaurant, which was fourth in the world (2019) and had earned two Michelin stars (from 2017 to 2019).
He did it by opening the new Gaggan Anand in 2022 and moving Ms Maria & Mr Singh to the upper floor of the same building in 2023 (ranked 33rd in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants), going through a pandemic in the busy and chaotic Sukhumvit, the extreme edge of the imposing new Bangkok. And he won.

Because in the new Gaggan Anand Restaurant, he brings together all his multitudes. Because dinner goes beyond the act of eating excellent food. Dinner becomes a "theatrical act" in two performances where one performs but does not act, addressing real themes related to fine dining, sustainability (also in terms of work), Indian culture, and the chef's personal history. Food becomes the centerpiece of an experience, the engine through which to convey messages, the catalyst for emotions and connections, the link between the souls of strangers sitting around the same table to enjoy the show that costs around 12,000 baht, approximately 300 euros. The lights are low, the music intensifies, setting the rhythm for each course and the entire experience.

Eating at Gaggan's: a concert of words, music, and flavors

The ouverture, once seated, for us is with U2's "Beautiful Day"; the red neon sign "Be a rebel" goes out on the concrete walls; the brigade works in the open kitchen in the center of the stage: all 29 members, including Serbian sommelier Vladimir Kojic, Gaggan's faithful Vix Rathour on his last service in this restaurant, and Portuguese head chef Fábio Costa. The rhythm changes, Lionel Richie's "Easy" introduces Gaggan, and it begins.

The conductor directs a two-act symphony: eight dishes and two desserts in the first; ten courses and two small desserts in the second. He discusses, explains, asks questions, provides examples, provokes, with the same ease and passion he uses to talk about Pink Floyd or Rammstein, about music in all its dimensions. Molecular gastronomy and advanced techniques allow for bringing Indian flavors to the table with unexpected twists: Gaggan leads a team of "rebels" through what can be defined as a culinary symphony orchestra.

Gaggan's dishes and stories

The Yogurt Explosion (a tribute and reference to his formative period at Elbulli by Ferran Adrià, created in 2010 and never changed in the menu) is the evening's signature: a spherified yogurt that explodes in the mouth with a mix of spices (Chaat masala), revealing itself as a crescendo. The Momo Methi Malai is prepared with black garlic dough, fenugreek peas, Champagne sour cream with pea peels (because here, nothing is wasted).

The Asparagus Sunflower also attests to this: an asparagus used in its entirety—the tip is juiced and gelatinized; the lower part is whipped into a semifreddo, while the central part is hand-cut into petals. The juice from the more woody outer parts is used to make a meringue, and everything is assembled to resemble a sunflower with a hint of wasabi.

And if with "Onion as a brain" and "Bamboo Shoot Satay," Gaggan tells the story of Bangkok's rats, satirizing the trend of local ingredients (which, in his opinion, is mostly greenwashing), it's with "Kuruma Ebi Hojicha" that he brings smoked shrimp to the table, using words of appreciation for everything that avoids intensive farming.

The technique visually emerges more than in other courses in "Scallop Ice Cream Lollipop": while The Weeknd's "I Feel It Coming" resonates, the scallops are immersed in liquid nitrogen and covered with three sauces based on green curry leaves, coconut, and red chili.

And then there's sustainability (also in terms of work) with "Fall Mushroom Aged Rice," prepared by a Mexican intern "who is here, paid, to learn and not to peel potatoes," thunders Gaggan as we switch from Backstreet Boys' "As Long as You Love Me" to Oasis' "Wonderwall" and the final act of the second part opens with Norah Jones' "Sunrise." It ends, like in the best shows, with the audience's ovation, who sang and danced with the entire brigade throughout the evening, while Pharrell Williams' "Happy" resonates.

Thus, in an interaction between artist and audience that resembles more a rock concert than a classic culinary experience, one travels through a sensory and emotional adventure guided by the immense multitudes of an Indian chef who wants to leave tangible memories for his diners in a two-and-a-half-hour journey: "Analog memories (like his vinyl collection, note) and not digital, of flavors and not photographs, to challenge your entire idea of fine dining, hoping you enjoy this shitty show," he says. Yes, we enjoyed it. A lot.

cross linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram