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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Hart

My friend Gaggan

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

Last February, I unexpectedly ended up in Bangkok.

The quick summary is my girlfriend (soon to be wife) caught a bug in the Philippines. We weren’t able to make our connecting flight from Bangkok to Mumbai and traded the flight for a taxi to Bumrungrad Hospital in downtown Bangkok. And then we left the hospital with a 3 day plan of antibiotics.

After a long and stressful 24 hours, we settled into our new hotel and adjusted to our new home for the next few days. I never thought I’d be back in Bangkok for the third time in the last four years but here I was. Feeling a bit restless and I guess, at home, I left the hotel to explore while Erin rested.

While looking on the maps for places to grab lunch and a Chiang, I realized I was a quick walk from Gaggan, the 3 star Michelin, 4th ranked restaurant in the world, featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table. At this point, I had only watched the episode five times, so like any food groupie, I decided to walk over to the restaurant to see what was going on at Gaggan.

From the outside looking in and being the tourist I was, I began snapping a few photos and peering through the windows to watch the staff prep for the beginning of dinner service. It didn’t take long but was quickly approached with a curious, “May I help you?”

The salesman in me began to explain how I unexpectedly ended up in Bangkok. The manager, a combination of cool and how do I get this tourist to leave, graciously offered me a tour of the restaurant, including the wine bar that had just opened the night before, Wet. As the tour ended, I threw a Hail Mary and asked if they had any openings for the evening.

The food gods were on my side. There was room for one at Gaggan’s chef’s counter for the 5:30pm seating. I knew Erin wasn’t in any condition to join so I raced back to the hotel to explain the chance encounter. And to see if she was ok with me going back to Gaggan for the 5:30pm seating.

As dinner began, you quickly realize this is about to be an experience unlike any other. It was probably going to be much more than a tasting menu. And right as you begin to come to the conclusion, Gaggan begins to tell you that the, “Team of misfits and I aren’t here to serve you dinner. We are here to take you on a journey and to give you a memory that will last forever.” An unwavering confidence balanced with humility and comedy. I was ready.

The menu is presented as a list of 25 emoji’s, one for each course. Over the course of the following 3 hours, Gaggan and his team led the dining room on an unforgettable journey of 25 courses. Early in the first sequence of courses, the story-telling begins with the touch of an iPhone. The team begins serving the first course while “Lick it Up” by Kiss is blasting throughout the restaurant with a room full of giddy guests from all over the world picking up their plate to, lick it up. The flavors of every course were carefully woven together with wine, music, and personality to deliver an extraordinary dining experience only to be topped by Gaggan himself the very next day.

Dark Side of the Moon

My prime position at the Chef’s Counter allowed me to start a conversation with Gaggan halfway through dinner and the wine pairing. After explaining how I unexpectedly ended up in Bangkok, I asked Gaggan where he would recommend we have dinner the next day, for Valentine’s Day. He enthusiastically encouraged us to have dinner at Wet, even offering to serve us before officially opening that evening.

After a few tuk tuk rides and some time with the reclining Buddha, we made our way to Wet to spend our first Valentine’s Day together, in Bangkok, with the entire restaurant to ourselves only to be treated to the full dessert course from the tasting menu the evening before. One of the world’s best, most creative chefs with a larger than life personality, is also one of the coolest, most compassionate humans out there.

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