asia’s 50 best

It’s true what they say: It can be lonely at the top.

So affirms Indian chef Gaggan Anand who, after claiming the title of best restaurant in Asia for the fourth year in a row for his Bangkok restaurant Gaggan, is asking the academy at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards to take him out of next year’s running and cast their vote for someone else.

In a wide-ranging and frank interview with Fine Dining Lovers, the food blog helmed by event sponsor San Pellegrino, Anand declared before the gala ceremony that should he win the title again for 2018, it would be the last time he takes to the stage to accept the award.

Because after monopolising the spotlight for four years in a row, Anand feels like he’s lost friends to his fame, particularly among former chef pals he used to hang out with at the event who no longer return his smiles.

“I want my friends back, I don’t want to make 49 enemies, so I don’t want to be part of this misery,” he said in the interview.

“That’s part of fame, it’s fame’s curse and I think they all should get the curse,” he added smiling.

Anand’s wish to be withdrawn from the list echoes some chefs’ recent reactions to being crowned by the Michelin guide, which likewise turns chefs into overnight stars and fills up dining rooms months in advance.

Over the last few years, several high-profile chefs, notably France’s Sebastian Bras of Le Suquet in Aveyron, have asked to be stripped of their stars, citing the unsustainable pressure of churning out three Michelin-starred meals every night.

Though it’s unclear if pulling out of the awards is an option next year, Anand will get his wish in 2020, when he shutters the restaurant Gaggan for good and uproots to Japan to open a new restaurant.

Anand won’t be abandoning Bangkok completely: He will be part owner of a tofu restaurant, wine bar, and a Thai restaurant in the city.

The plan for Japan is to open a 10-seat eatery in Fukuoka that will open alternately – one month on, one month off – a strategy aimed at averting burn-out, and allowing the chef to spend more time with his family.

To thank his fans, the chef said he also plans to release a cookbook that will be available online for free, on the last day of Gaggan.

“I’ve decided my book will go online on the last day of my restaurant as a free gift to the world.” – AFP Relaxnews

Restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok has successfully defended its title as the best dining destination in Asia for the fourth consecutive year in a row at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards.

On March 27 in Macao, some of the most influential, innovative and masterful chefs from across Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, gathered to hear who among them would take the top spots on the annual restaurant ranking.

As the countdown continued with the conspicuous absence of chef Gaggan Anand’s name, it became clear that the group’s favourite chef had secured his title against the competition.

Aside from Gaggan, the city of Tokyo also emerged a big winner this year, landing four spots on the top 10 list, and 11 restaurants on the ranking overall.

Rounding out the podium are Den and Florilege, both in Tokyo.

Organisers credit Anand’s “fertile imagination” and “culinary wit” for endearing him to the judges again this year.

At Gaggan, which serves progressive Indian cuisine, the 25-course menu is written entirely in emojis, setting the tone for the rest of the meal playful and modern.

One of Anand’s signature dishes, “Lick it up”, for instance, is an amusing take on the Kiss song of the same name and is meant to be licked directly from the plate. Layers of green peas, fenugreek mushroom and tomato are placed in exactly the same spots on the tongue’s taste receptors.

The ranking is based on the votes of 300 food writers, critics, chefs, restaurateurs, and “gastronomes” in the region.

Gaggan Anand

Chef Gaggan Anand.

Other big winners of the night include chef Yoshihiro Narisawa, who took home the Chefs’ Choice Award; Nicolas Lambert from Caprice in Hong Kong who was named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef; and Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet in Shanghai for the Art of Hospitality Award.

Chef Andre Chiang accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award and Bee Satongun of Paste in Bangkok also accepted her award for Asia’s Best Female Chef, both of which were previously announced ahead of the event.

Here are Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018:

1. Gaggan, Bangkok
2. Den, Tokyo
3. Florilege, Tokyo
4. Suhring, Bangkok
5. Odette, Singapore
6. Narisawa,Tokyo
7. Amber, Hong Kong
8. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai
9. Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo
10. Nahm, Bangkok – AFP Relaxnews

Restaurant Gaggan

Restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok.

Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants has announced Toyo Eatery in Manila as the 2018 recipient of the Miele One To Watch Award. Selected by the organisers of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, in collaboration with its regional experts, the Miele One To Watch Award is presented to a restaurant that is outside the Asia’s 50 Best list but is identified as the rising star of the region.

Toyo Eatery’s owner-chef Jordy Navarra will formally accept the honour at the sixth annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, on March 27, in Macao. William Drew, group editor of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, says: “Toyo Eatery embodies the spirit of the Miele One To Watch Award. With a menu celebrating local culture and traditional dishes, chef-owner Jordy Navarra is a young talent who is advancing the cuisine with creative flair and a progressive approach, but also with precision and attention to detail.”

The name Toyo derives from the Filipino word for “soy sauce” and reflects Navarra’s philosophy: Toyo Eatery’s menu draws inspiration from everyday local ingredients and incorporates refined techniques and intricate layers. Navarra and his wife, May, who oversees the restaurant floor, are committed to celebrating local culture and interpreting Filipino culinary traditions in a modern context. Each dish is designed to convey a unique Philippine flavour or represent a traditional cooking method while the furniture, dinnerware and accessories are crafted by local artists and designers.

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Navarra’s pride in his heritage is evident in Toyo Eatery’s menu. He created one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, “Garden Vegetables”, based on a traditional folk song that lists 18 local vegetable varieties. In a nod to nostalgia, his upbringing and the terroir of the Philippines, Navarra’s dish features all 18 ingredients in various forms, whether charred, sautéed, crushed or pureed.

“From the start, our mission at Toyo Eatery has been to reassess, rediscover, and find a deeper understanding of Filipino culture through food,” explains Navarra. “As Toyo Eatery approaches its second anniversary, this award is the gift we never saw coming. Being granted the Miele One To Watch Award by such a respected authority is an amazing honour. We are thankful to those who appreciate and acknowledge what we do. Toyo is still in its infancy and we still have much to do, but we’re inspired to learn from the chefs whose restaurants are included in the list of Asia’s 50 Best.”

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Navarra began his career at Heston Blumenthal’s legendary restaurant The Fat Duck, where he developed his technical skills and progressive approach. He returned to Asia to work at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong before landing in Manila, where he launched Black Sheep in 2014. He and May opened Toyo Eatery in 2016, offering diners a choice between a three or 11-course set menu as well as à la carte
options.

“Toyo Eatery impresses us by taking inspiration from everyday local ingredients and recipes and bringing them to the level of culinary excellence with passion, expertise and a progressive approach,” says Mario Miranda, regional managing director Asia at Miele. “This same attitude involving constant improvement and innovation are part of Miele’s ‘Immer Besser’ brand philosophy. We are honoured to present this year’s Miele One To Watch Award to Jordy Navarra and the team of Toyo Eatery.”