Bindu Gopal Rao
Gaggan Anand, the name that is held with utmost regard in culinary circles, needs little introduction. For the uninitiated, however, his restaurant has four times made it to ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list and his take on progressive Indian cuisine is unlike no one else. His meals may have a dash of drama and theatrics but with two Michelin stars under his belt, Anand knows it is food that is the star of his creations. This, however, was in a pre-Covid world. The contagion has changed it all and we get talking to him on how he plans to deal with the changing dynamics.
A new world
In November 2019, Anand embarked on a new trajectory with the opening of his eponymous new restaurant, Gaggan Anand, in Bangkok with the same 65-member staff that worked with him in his previous restaurant, Gaggan. After a great initial run, however, the pandemic hit, changing things dramatically.
“One thing we have to understand is that this impacts everyone. It is a human problem and not an embryonic issue. What matters most is survival and that is also my primary concern. It is not about making money or profits now, but braving these times. This is also the time for us to be there and retain our staff as it is most important that the stronger helps the weaker,” says Anand.
Going out to restaurants in a post-Covid-19 world will be different. “If you remember, after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, luxury dining was not the same. Likewise, things will not be the same for a long time now and we all must adapt, understand and not get frustrated.” What has come out clearly is that the number of covers getting filled up in the restaurant will not be possible due to social distancing and it will take some time for things to settle down. “The biggest impact is we will not have a full house nor shall we have a waiting list. So, it will be a slow and steady path to recovery.”
Chef Gaggan Anand
The food industry is all set to change to become cleaner. In India we must also be cautious because issues like food poisoning are commonplace and that is something that cannot be allowed to happen. You need to have better safety standards as most people eat with their hands.
For the better
According to Anand, the one positive that has come out of this crisis is the stress on cleanliness and hygiene. Safety is going to be key — of both the consumers and the staff—and hygiene standards will need to be adhered to without any compromise.
“The food industry is all set to change to become cleaner. Chefs in India have to understand that hygiene is above everything else. You need to have better safety standards as most people eat with their hands. In India we must also be cautious because issues like food poisoning are commonplace and that is something that cannot be allowed to happen,” he says.
Anand also understands that the food industry will change forever as far as large banquet style gatherings are concerned. “Ten people cannot queue up in one place nor can there be massive family gatherings. We must figure out a way to tackle these things.” Incidentally, at this time, Anand is on a keto diet and is completely off potatoes and carbohydrates and admits he has lost weight while focusing on eating healthy.
Anand hopes that these times will also teach people to be more equitable to everyone while going forward. “The impact of any crisis and its aftermath need to be distributed equitably and one person should not be burdened more as compared to another. My plan over the next three-four months is to open safely for my team and for our customers and focus on what we can do best and be flexible.”
Incidentally, the chef recently opened his own curry house, Ms. Maria & Mr. Singh, a Mexican-Indian fusion cuisine restaurant, in March 2020 and is glad that he can take orders for deliveries and takeaways at this outlet. “At this time, I am glad that I can do at least this much for my staff. They need to support their families and hence we have started deliveries. While I know I can survive for a few months, they cannot manage without help. I just hope that we all are able get over this and a cure is found soon. We are all vulnerable and we need to control our temptations and greed must be the last thing on our mind at this stage.”