By John Day Barnett
Photo Credit: Brent Lewin for SilverKris Magazine
“In India, food is our religion. There are deep roots in food – the food changes every 50 kilometers…and if that country which has such deep knowledge about food is not represented in the world at the right levels, it’s a disgrace to me.”
– Gaggan Anand
When you eat at a restaurant, especially one that is globally ranked and has a famous chef at the helm, how much do you care about the backstory of the person in charge?
Chef’s Table, a masterpiece in storytelling from Netflix, dives deeply into the lives of chefs from around the world, including many who run the best restaurants. When I saw an episode about Gaggan Anand I was excited to learn about Indian food – but I was surprised to see that the restaurant Gaggan isn’t even in India.
While the story starts in Kolkata and concludes in Bangkok, it is full of ups and downs. Imagine achieving your dreams, getting out of poverty, and working your dream job when it is snatched away by a colleague in a fit of rage. Years follow and heartbreak continues – delivering food to a fast food restaurant, partnerships lost, and personal losses that truly test the spirit.
In today’s world of technology, life can also change in an instant with the refresh of your email inbox. A longshot turns into reality and a drunkenly conceived idea comes to fruition, only to be delayed by political instability and rioting.
Taken as a whole, the journey fills the equivalent of many lifetimes over the span of mere years. For Gaggan, it represents only the first few acts. The award of Asia’s best restaurant – again an Indian restaurant outside of India – will serve as a springboard into the future rather than cap off a long and storied career.
The documentary is a visual spectacle that is a tour through Indian cooking but in an unfamiliar way. Sure, there is Chicken Tikka Masala and naan, but also liquid nitrogen and a yoghurt dish you need to see to believe. With a vision to elevate what is only seen as comfort food, Gaggan delivers in a way that is almost too beautiful and different to believe.
As he states at the end of the episode, “success came to me very easily.” If success means moving from a house with no electricity to arriving at the top of the restaurant world, we should all follow his words and never lose hope.
If your goal is to completely upend the traditional, unquestioned way things are done – go for it. When adversity arises, focus on your strengths and hold your belief close no matter what the obstacles. The world is constantly changing, and even if your idea seems too early to be achievable, think about the chef making the best Indian food in the world and who refuses to cook the one dish that everyone knows and loves.