The day arrived..the final chapter of this incredible adventure..the last night in Bangkok. I intentionally booked my departure out of Bangkok for one reason and one reason only to have the opportunity to eat at the top restaurant in all of Asia-Gaggan. It is very difficult to get a reservation but with still months before my departure I thought I would try. I first emailed them..nothing..then I called from Canada..nothing..then I emailed again only this time I pleaded..”I am a food/travel blogger from Canada travelling to Bangkok specifically to have the opportunity to eat at Gaggan.” Bound and determined. Then I woke the next morning to a response indicating they have booked me in. I won’t lie..I cried when I opened that email.
Throughout this journey I have had the opportunity to eat food from each end of the spectrum..behind little alley’s on plastic stools..standing at a vendors stall..sitting in family owned cafes and the odd upscale restaurant. All showed up to my expectations. I have eaten food that has made me sigh with delight..make my eyes water and my tongue burn..some that even made me squirm. There was no sense left unstimulated. But all along the way I anticipated this last day..this chance to experience the absolute culinary genius creations of Gaggan. A man who came from a poor family in India who’s passion for gastronomy led him to create progressive Indian food that, until him, had never been
experimented with on that level.
My favourite Gaggan quote:“I felt if Pink Floyd can make a 20 minute song and make it sound good, than I can make Indian food 23 courses without serving more than one curry. That’s a challenge. That’s the challenge I take.” -Gaggan Anand
So the day came ..I landed in Bangkok. I arrived at my hotel and spent the hours remaining preparing. I laid out my new dress that I had custom made in Vietnam, which in fact required some careful tugs and twists to put on as it was much tighter with the weeks of eating. I showered longer than I ever have in all my life..I wanted the outside of me to glow as bright as what I was feeling on the inside. My nails were freshly painted in Chiang Mai. I felt like Cinderella getting ready for the ball. I was bubbling with excitement.
When I entered the lobby the man who was previously a little dissmissive to me on my arrival looking disheveled and as western as you could get..managed to say..”wow”. I gathered that meant I cleaned up well.
He called me a taxi and I asked him to be very clear with the driver (due to previous mishaps) of the address I provided because I could not be late!! 6pm sharp. In fact I booked this hotel in particular because of its close proximity to the restaurant.
The taxi arrived and the driver nodded and smiled..it would appear all was going as planned. Then..at 550 I realized the driver was confused ..he could sense my panic “no no no please tell me you know where you are going!?” ” me from Laos no English oh hmmm ahh”.. he was lost. He understood zero of what I was asking “do you have internet!? Gps? Can you call?”. He just shook his head and began to panic himself poor fella . “Stop!” I made him pull over so I could ask some random Americans if they had wifi on their phones so I could GPS it. Luckily they did and as luck would have it we were close.Time check-5:58. “There there!!” I pointed. He shrieked with relief then began to apologize profusely “sorry sorry I from laos!”. It’s ok it’s ok. I literally catapolded from the taxi, shimming my dress down and trying to fix my hair that by this time had turned into a sweaty mess. Cinderella got hit by a train on the way to the ball. I didn’t care.
Once in the glass encased entrance the consierege asked “Do you have a reservation miss?” “Why yes I most certainly do!!!”. I replied with a little hop in my step. “Ah yes Tanya ward ..you will be at the chefs table tonight.”. I stood frozen. This meant I would be sitting in the special room or tasting lab with an opportunity to see how each dish was prepared. My grandmother used to say people who swear have limited vocabulary..but sometimes there is no word that could emphatically capture through articulation what is really happening inside ..”are you f&%£ing kidding me right now?” No I didn’t actually say that out loud but I do think she still heard it from inside my head. I didn’t realize that is what I reserved for. Let me try to explain for you what that moment was like when I discovered this. Remember as a child on Christmas morning when you woke with excitement skipping down the hallway to the tree and that brief indescribable pause between seeing all the presents scattered about and actually getting to open them? That’s how I felt. I had a lump in my throat and my eyes began to water. I tried so desperately to hold it together. There were about 12 seats shaped around the steel workstations. Others already seated were relaxed and casually sipping their wine. Me? Not so casual. But by god if there were any a person on this planet to appreciate this it’s me. I sat eager..attentive..bubbling with anticipation. Out came the cooks who gestured us to look at the menu placed in front of us. 25 emojis. No names-no description.
We were going in blindly as he indicated there have been changes to this tasting menu -in other words new creations than what I had read about. 25 courses. The first few were described as the rapid fire- eat them with one bite quickly. Like that first steep hill down on the roller coaster. Here’s a couple:
Spice, citrus, cola
Yogurt explosion-molecular gastronomy-yogurt, black salt, masala
Chili Bon Bon
Once you have caught your breath and brushed the drool from your mouth it begins again. Like…
Green pea and mushroom roll
Aloo gobi and caviar
Citrus waffle with goat brain
Charcoal Prawn Amritsari
Cedar wood paturi
then after a few more courses the desserts…
Basil chocolate butterfly
Each dish came with a story and a contrast of tastes and textures. I was indeed eating plated art.
I started the night trying to make notes of each dish but doing so removed me from participating fully. Tonight was my private gastronomical romance and in no way would I succumb to just observing. As we approached the main courses Gaggan himself entered the lab. The sommolier must have caught my utter enthusiasm and gave me a smile and a nod. I was shaking a little. For some it’s movie stars, or athletes, or singers..for me it’s this guy. Once the dinner completed I felt lost. Like how does Cinderella go back to scrubbing floors after dancing with tastes like that? She doesn’t..she gets in her kitchen inspired and hungry to recreate that moment for herself…that’s what she does.
What made this night so incredible? It wasn’t just the food..I’ve eaten in three star Michelson restaurants and left disappointed. This was different..I felt the enthusiasm of the chef on all levels. The smiles and ease on the faces of the cooks who clearly loved their job.. the attentive and engaged wait staff and the young knowledgable French sommelier who took my dinner from amazing to extrordinary as he paired my dishes with wines I had not even heard of…all conduits to the playful, creative, and passionate chef.
At the end the sommelier walked me out and on the way gestured to Gaggan who came out to where I was standing. I had the priveledge of letting this man know first hand how incredible my experience was. “Where are you from?” “From an island in Canada and I came to Bangkok to taste your food”. And with that he gave me a firm embrace.
This was clearly a man who never lost his roots or his humility despite his success and that’s how it should be. And that was the special ingredient to all his dishes.
So on a random roof top overlooking the city lights of Bangkok I had a cocktail and processed what is to date the best food moment of my life.
How could I not take a rooftop selfie!
So here ends another chapter. As I turn another page on my passport I take away this..
Love fiercely and with passion but always feel the ground beneath you. Be mindful of your waste. Be grateful and curious and honour those that walked before you. Love and care for all kids not just your own. Stay loyal to your herd and respectful of others. Be kind. Kind thoughts, kind words, kind gestures. And surround yourself with the same. Life is about getting muddy to know what it feels like to glow. Wisdom comes from both ends. Be adventurous and courageous.. be inspired and inspire others. You have one life..live it large.
Oh…and don’t forget to eat your veggies.
Thanks for joining me!