Chef Garima Arora became the first Indian woman to win a Michelin star for her Bangkok restaurant ‘Gaa’ that opened in May 2017.
Arora's delicious and artsy mix of Indian and Thai cuisine earned a Michelin star in the Michelin Guide Bangkok, Phuket And Phang-Nga 2019.
‘Gaa’ is one of the 27 Michelin-starred restaurants in Bangkok (and Phuket) that have been recognised in the new guide.
Arora, a Mumbai girl, drew inspiration from her Punjabi family, especially her father, who brought home exotic dishes. And guess what? She was working as a journalist before she became a chef!
She worked with renowned chef Gaggan Anand for a year at his restaurant ‘Gaggan’ in Bangkok, which has held the number one spot among Asia’s 50 best restaurants. Anand and Arora then partnered for ‘Gaa’ in the Thai capital.
The Most Popular Dish on Her Tasting Menu?
The one that brings together grilled jackfruit, roti, and homemade pickles! While the jackfruit is popular in India, the roti is made with a ripe version of the fruit that is more popular in Thailand.
She speaks to The Quint about her journey and about becoming the first Indian woman to bag a Michelin star.
WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE JAMMING IN THE KITCHEN FOR 10 YEARS?
"There have been moments of utter brilliance to moments of utter regret, but I think overall, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing with my life. So I’m happy that I made this choice." - Chef Gaima Arora, Gaa
WHEN DID YOU KNOW ‘THIS IS IT, THIS IS WHAT I WANNA DO...'?
"I studied to be a journalist before I decided to switch careers, and moved to Paris to study cooking. And I am glad I did." - Chef Gaima Arora, Gaa
SOME RECOMMENDATIONS FOR DESI DISHES WITH THAI TADKA
"Some of the favourite dishes at Gaa are the ones with corn, which is my favourite and also a favourite for the crowds. It is our version of the Bombay bhutta that we have during the monsoons. Also, one of my favourites is the jackfruit bread course and the chocolate paan leaf that you have at the end of the meal. At Gaa, we have a tasting menu of 10 or 14 courses. We try to find the connection between India, where I am from, and Thailand, where I am today. So the idea is to give our guests something new to taste, something they have never tasted before through flavours, textures and flavour combinations." - Chef Gaima Arora, Gaa
ONE MEMORABLE MOMENT THAT HAS STUCK WITH YOU
"It’s when my parents came and ate – it was one of the most exciting days or exciting services for me at least. He’s (father) always been my biggest supporter and my biggest critic as well. So yeah, that was one of the most exciting tables for me." - Chef Gaima Arora, Gaa
WHAT'S THE VIBE LIKE IN THE KITCHEN?
"Twelve of us are working in the kitchen and we have 5 different nationalities. It’s always fun when we are making a meal, not so much when we are choosing which music to play, but I think we’re like a family when we are in the kitchen." - Chef Gaima Arora, Gaa
WHO IS THE ONE CELEBRITY CHEF YOU ADMIRE?
"Growing up I used to love Kylie Kwong. She is one of my favourite celebrity chefs and I had the opportunity to meet her a couple of months ago. I had a proper fan-girl moment. So I think that was good fun." - Chef Gaima Arora, Gaa
THE MICHELIN STAR. THAT'S HUGE! SO WHERE'S THE PARTY?
"We had a great party a couple of nights ago and some of us are still recovering from it. So it’s fun." - Chef Gaima Arora, Gaa
WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE AS A WOMAN!
"Well, there are no shortcuts, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to be there, you’ve got to know what you want. I think it’s for every young woman, no matter what industry or what career they choose. Never apologise for the choices you make in life. Stand by them and always be confident." - Chef Gaima Arora, Gaa
Concluding the interview, Arora said she's proud of her team and her restaurant, and wants to continue focusing on Gaa and "keep doing what we're doing.”
As a chef, she wants all of her customers to walk away with a "feeling of never having eaten something like this before.”
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