His protégés and staff members, on the other hand, are millennials. At the age of 38, Anand has invested hard cash, and deployed his vast network of contacts, to make many of their dreams a reality. Take the German twins, Mathias and Thomas Sühring, who run an exquisite German fine-dining restaurant, Sühring, in a refurbished mansion in the suburbs; Garima Arora, formerly of Noma, who heads Gaa across the road from Gaggan; and Meatlicious, which is what Anand calls an investment for his wife, Pui, and her friends. He devised the latter’s menu of comfort food, and they run it. On the cards is Wet, a wine and fried-chicken bar, with his straight-talking head sommelier Vladimir Kojic. Anand considers the investments key to freeing him up so that he can “work on my art”. There are few chefs who can diversify this much and travel as extensively as Anand does, while maintaining the standard expected by his clients. José Avillez, with two-star Michelin Belcanto and a string of establishments in Lisbon; Dominique Crenn, who runs Petite Crenn and two-star Michelin Atelier Crenn in San Francisco; and the Adrià brothers are a few rare exceptions.
Pulling up to the At Tor Kor market, where Anand visits his favourite fresh spice seller (“You must buy the curry pastes from here,” he instructs), he ruminates on the future. Around us vendors whisk oysters into fluffy omelettes, stir-fry pad Thai studded with plump prawns over hot woks, and ladle curried noodle soups into cheap bowls. It’s well known that Anand’s next project will be a small restaurant (GohGan) in Fukuoka, Japan, with friend and collaborator Takeshi Fukuyama of La Maison de La Nature Goh. Anand’s love affair with Japan will mean that he spends a significant slice of time away from Pui and their toddler, Tara, whom he lovingly calls #Thaibaby on Instagram. “I am already famous. But I’m in a comfort zone,” he says over coffee at the Royal Thai Project’s coffee shop. It’s adjacent to the market, where pristine sustainable produce, grown on reclaimed opium lands, is sold. “You can’t go from the top of one mountain to the next one. You’ve got to start from scratch. I have to quit everything, sacrifice everything that I have, and get out of this comfort zone,” he says.
Questions about his mortality circulate — perhaps Anand has had a premonition about his life span (his brother’s untimely passing is well documented); perhaps it’s the publicity stunt of a talented chef with a newly inflated bank balance. At various moments — during service, or on the nights we all go bar-hopping — the staff tell stories of how Anand has gone to great lengths to provide them with skills in a kitchen that does not follow the rules, nor the customary hierarchy: there are no head or sous chefs, technically. It’s led to what Gaggan’s operations manager, former lawyer Meenakshi Kumar, calls a “family dynamic” — co-workers who genuinely care for each other. “But he’s always checking in on the WhatsApp group. And they get a grilling,” she laughs. Anand’s chefs tells me that he is an avid socialmedia user, and if any dish posted by a customer on Instagram doesn’t meet his standards while he is away from the kitchen on his travels, they receive a tonguelashing, sharp and furious. “He’s hard on you, but he’s fair,” Kumar says.