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AlumniGabbing with Gaggan’s Swiss Educated Head Chef and Restaurant Manager

Gaggan restaurant is currently sitting as Asia’s #1 Restaurant, the World’s #5 Restaurant and has 2 Michelin stars.

Culinary Arts Academy alumnus Head Chef Rydo and SHMS alumnus Restaurant Manager Vibhi Harnvarakiat share two very different perspectives from the Kitchen and Front of House from Asia’s top restaurant.

What is a typical day at work for you at Gaggan, Asia’s #1 restaurant?

Chef Rydo Anton (RA): I come in to work at 8am or 12pm (depending on the shift), together with my fellow chefs from all over the world. We decide what songs to listen to during preparation, who’s making the family meal and what cuisine we are going to eat.

And of course, we prepare the legendary mise en place! This prep takes up to 35 chefs to complete for the 25 bites of experience for our 120 guests every night.

Chef from Culinary Arts Academy

Vibhi Harnvarakiat (VH): Well, a typical day in the Front of the House (FOH) includes responding to e-mails from guests, reviewing the operational aspects of the restaurant and seeing if anything needs to be improved or changed.

Following that we have a briefing that focuses on our guests, such as allergies and dietary restrictions or any special requests. We have training on some days and on others we carry out deep cleaning. Then we have a quick dinner break and then the final stages of mise en place in the dining room. Our service starts at 6pm and we call it a day by about 1.30-2.00am.

How did you land the gig at Gaggan?

RA: At the beginning of 2013, I heard about a new progressive Indian restaurant where the chef was using modern techniques. I was inspired by this because I wanted to experience more excitement with food. I found the restaurant and waited about four hours before I finally met Chef Gaggan. He asked me to do a trial, which comprised of seven dishes. He liked them and after a week, I was hired as one of his chefs.

VH: I would say it’s a combination of being at the right place at the right time and a lot of luck.

Hospitality and Culinary alumni in Bangkok

When I was at my previous job at another restaurant in Thailand, a member of the Gaggan team was there having a drink. We started talking and next thing I knew, I was asked to come in to have a chat with the Gaggan team. I did and about a week after, I officially became a part of the Gaggan FOH team.

What is it like working with Chef Gaggan Anand?

RA: Chef Gaggan is like a big brother to me – it has been a fun, creative, wild and definitely memorable experience working with him.

VH: It’s been pretty amazing! Not only is he a crazy talented chef, he is a great person. Both Chef Gaggan and Vladimir (the head sommelier) give me the flexibility and support I need to run the team for an optimal FOH experience.

What has been the most memorable or unexpected experience you’ve had working with Chef Gaggan Anand?

RA: The most memorable experience I’ve had during my six years here is the first time we became #1 at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2015. Then the feeling of retaining that top spot. This year we’ve been Asia’s top restaurant for the fourth consecutive year.

VH: It’s been an absolute privilege working here and one of the more memorable experiences would be observing and working with different international chefs during our popup events. Being exposed to the top chefs and seeing how they work is always an eye-opening experience

What is your favourite dish on the 25-course tasting menu and why?

RA: We are very dedicated to our menu and the team, together with Chef Gaggan are constantly coming up with new ideas. We change about 18 out of our 25 bites every four months. The research and development for these usually takes me and four other chefs a month to complete, but some dishes seem to take forever to get decoded.

My favourite dish is the vindaloo, which is a Goan-Portuguese based dish that actually originated from the carne de vinha d’alhos, which means meat in wine and garlic. This was how the Portuguese preserved food when they were out at sea. Now, vindaloo is known as a very hot and spicy curry and it’s been ‘Indianized’ by substituting many of its original ingredients or adding ingredients such as palm sugar and red peppers.

I put a lot of research into this dish and after three years of working on different variations of vindaloo, finally arrived at something that acknowledged its history and trajectory.

VH: I have a big sweet tooth so my favourite dish on the current menu is our first dessert, which is a rose that is made out of beetroot. It both looks and tastes amazing. It’s an intricate dish made out of dehydrated beetroot rose petals, tonka bean marshmallow and a chocolate chip cookie.

Chef Gaggan Anand has announced the closing of his restaurant in 2020. So what’s next for you?

RA: While Chef Gaggan will be based in Japan, there are plans for me to renovate the space and move forward with new ideas and concept for the restaurant.

VH: I hope to start my own restaurant here in Bangkok, as it has been a dream of mine since I was 18. I still have a lot to learn and hopefully the next two years will put me in the right position to achieve that. I do have something in mind in terms of my restaurant’s concept, but we shall see!

How has your Swiss education served your career today?

RA: Thanks to my education, I have the basics of cooking, professionalism, passion, planning, pride and perseverance.

VH: Beyond developing my passion, skills and understanding of the service industry, I believe my time at SHMS gave me an advantage in the restaurant industry as well.

Studying with such an international community, I was exposed to different cultures and values from all over the world. It opened my mind and enabled me to understand values, cues, and how to communicate more effectively.

Any advice for graduates looking to work in a top restaurant?

RA: Learn the basics before doing something you don’t know. Always ask questions if you don’t understand or don’t know anything about what you are supposed to do, because it is better to feel stupid for few minutes than the rest of your journey!

VH: This might sound corny but just stay motivated and always have that willingness to continuously learn. Keep learning and applying what you’ve learnt.

Rydo Anton graduated in 2010 from Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland (formerly DCT University Center Switzerland) with a Degree in European Culinary Management.

Vibhi Harnvarakiat graduated in 2014 from SHMS Swiss Hotel Management School with a degree in International Hospitality Management.

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