By: Rafael Tonon
In a recent interview I did with the famous chef Gaggan Anand, he told me the details about his decision to close his eponymous restaurants in 2020, an unusual step for a famous restaurant that retained its place in the top of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the last three years and conquered its two stars in the first Michelin Guide for Bangkok. “I hate to be predictable, so I need to take this break”, he told me, justifying his decision.
But there are more things behind this justification, I presume. Anand says that the restaurant will have its 10th anniversary in 2020, what he considers to be the average lifespan for a modern restaurant these days. And he is already looking for the future, when he plans to design his new business, GohGan: a venue where he will join Japanese chef Takeshi Fukuyama (from La Maison de la Nature Goh) to cook together, “which is something that has never happened in the world, changing the history of gastronomy”, he points out.
He plans to open only six months a year with only ten seats per day. “It’s very limited, exclusive, even because it will be in Fukuoka, not in Tokyo…”, he explains. Anand thinks this can be the future of fine dining. More like a great rock concert rather than the stage of a jazz club where musicians have the obligation to perform every day.
In the future, according to him, chefs will be “touring” in their own (probably pop-up) restaurants for a specific period of time – like an actor who stays on Broadway only for a season.
It isn’t something completely new – Rene Redzepi’s Noma has been touring for more than a couple of years now (as many other “conventional” restaurants), and Andoni Aduriz’ Mugaritz already runs for a season only in the year (for 8 months), only to cite two examples. But it’s something that makes more and more sense for fine-dining restaurants industry.
It is already known that fancy restaurants aren’t profitable – at least, many of them, which explains a horde of famous chefs opening more casual venues. They demand huge staffs, require very high expenses, and need to spend a lot of money to serve their ever-surprising dishes (and consider here a lot of investment in innovation, of course).
Opening only for a period is a clever way to optimize all efforts and dilute all costs – especially with staff.
On the other hand, in a moment where diners are looking not only for good dishes but also for great experiences, seeing a restaurant as a show can be a way to bring the aura of exclusivity and newness that seems to guide the search of consumers nowadays. As such, there would also be more time for the chefs to devote themselves to creating truly transcendental and surprising recipes – which should be, after all, what foodies are really looking for when they fly off on their vacation to visit such a restaurant.
In a world that is increasingly globalized and connected, the place in which it is located tends to be less important – except for some very local ingredients, of course. On a recent afternoon with Gaggan in his eponymous restaurant in Bangkok, the chef invited me to see a uni box that had just arrived from Hokkaido, in Japan, and which had been caught that morning. Within hours, he had the best Japanese seafood as fresh as possible in Thailand.
This makes us think that the place itself – a restaurant installed on a mountaintop or a modernist building designed to house a concept of a great cook – may lose relevance in the gastronomic scenario in the future. The new eaters are more and more eager to experience the trademark behind the name of a great chef: his creative recipes, his signature cuisine. And they tend to go after their idols wherever they are, as they usually do for their rock stars.