The Gelinaz Shuffle has been a fantastic experience for me – very emotional and successful.
It was my first time in Bangkok, so even if I have been in Asia before and knew many ingredients and flavours, I was aware that there will still be some surprises. I am a chef who likes planning in advance, so cooking in a new country, with new ingredients, with a new team and in a kitchen which is not mine was quite a challenge!
It started magically – with a very warm welcome by the Gaggan team. They were fabulous! They wanted me to experience everything: they took me for a visit to the local markets full of fantastic ingredients and then to Gaggan for a delicious dinner which allowed me to taste their cuisine.
My challenge was to unite three cultures within my cooking – the Thai, the Indian (Gaggan is Indian, living in Thailand) and my own – the German. Already before my trip I have chosen some basic ingredients which would be built upon in loco with the local ingredients. For example I knew I wanted to create something with eel and something with pork, but the final dishes were formulated only in Bangkok after I tasted their flavours and got to know the local ingredients. The dinner created by the Gaggan’s team was for me the moment of inspiration when I started, by taking notes, to visualise combinations for the dishes I would cook. The eel I made at Gaggan was a completely new dish, same also pork belly. The smoked eel was marinated with a stock made of skin and bones of eel, soya sauce and sake for 24 hours and was served with Tom Kha Gai foam and a local cucumber. Many people loved this dish, which is quite fantastic as it was born in such a short time.
Also my Riesling sorbet was new. It was a substitute for my Ruinart sorbet from Aqua. I wanted to bring flavours from my home to Thailand, so I chose a Riesling which beautifully combined with rambutan fruit for a Thai touch.
I was serving also some of my classics which were only slightly modified. Pigeon for example is one of my signature dishes from Dubai from a few years ago. It is a very multicultural dish – made with different types of curries, Curcuma, cous cous, sesame so I thought it was perfect for this occasion. I modified it only slightly. I thought it was important that people recognize my cooking even if inspired by Thailand and Gaggan’s cuisine.
Working at Gaggan was quite a challenge for me. A beautiful challenge! It was not only about new ingredients and new people, but also about organisation. Restaurant Gaggan is located on two floors and each floor has its own kitchen which serves that one floor. One of the kitchens is equipped only for preparation of cold dishes. In my case instead I had guests in both floors for the same menu which was including warm dishes. Another issue was that we had two sittings with at least 45 guests per sitting and that guests didn’t come at a fixed hour but whenever they pleased. This situation required excellent organisation. I created small teams which were specialised in one dish only – this way all cold dishes were created in one and all warm dishes in the other kitchen. This was the only way that allowed us serving all dishes in both floors at any time.
Looking back at the Gelinaz shuffle I am extremely grateful to Andrea and Alexandra for inviting me me to take part in the Gelinaz Shuffle, to the Sühring brothers (owners of the Sühring restaurant in Bangkok) who helped me in so many ways, to the Ambassador Tim Footman and to the entire Gaggan team for their passion and hard work. All the team members were fantastic. It is a huge crowd of all possible nationalities, speaking practically all languages of the world. What was uniting them was a great passion for their work and a willingness to learn. They were looking forward to starting working early in the morning so they could execute everything perfectly. They were so full of positive energy and cordiality! I was surrounded by music, good spirits, great food and fantastic company. We were working hard because it was really important for me that all guest who paid their Gelinaz ticket really enjoyed their experience and that they continue loving Gelinaz also in the future, but at the same time we also had lots of fun. I am really happy and grateful for this experience and am looking forward to the next Gelinaz Shuffle.
Sven Elverfeld, Aqua (Wolfsburg, Germany)