In a rare honour, Indian chef Garima Arora has become the first Indian woman to get a Michelin star for her restaurant in Bangkok. Her restaurant, GAA, featured in the recently released Michelin’s guide to Bangkok, Phuket and Phang-nga for 2019.
Born in Mumbai, Garima is an alumnus of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu. She studied in Mumbai’s Jai Hind College and is a former journalist. After having worked with culinary stalwarts like Gordon Ramsay, Gaggan Anand and René Redzepi, she set up GAA in 2017.
According to reports, GAA is also the only restaurant in Bangkok run by an Indian woman and is also the first of its kind. In an interview to Forbes India, Garima said that getting the Michelin star was a “huge stamp of approval” for her and her team.
Garima added that her father, who would travel extensively and then cook exotic dishes he savoured there for his family, has been a huge influence on her. Garima said she knew she wanted to start a restaurant, however, she believed that she would need to have a steady job for a while to be able to do so. “I began my career at a newspaper, but I soon began to realise that being a chef is a young person’s game. I had to do it now, if at all. So I quit my job, packed my bags and moved to Paris to study cooking at Le Cordon Bleu,” she said.
She also talked about how the Indian cooking technique of pickling has influenced her, and how she liked to pack strong and unusual flavours, which makes the food interactive and makes the style of eating a familiar, collective one. She added that her time working with renowned chefs also added to her skill and understanding. “While I didn’t have the chance to work directly with Gordon Ramsay, from Gaggan I learned the power of Asian hospitality,” she said.
Asked about the challenges of being a woman in the industry, she said she could not say, adding that the challenges would be the same regardless of gender, according to her. Leaving family, working long hours and financial challenges were some that she named.
Garima pointed out, however, that it was difficult to see many international chefs coming out of India because of these financial challenges as well. “It’s not that we’re less talented or less hard-working, but we don’t have the opportunities and are not encouraged to explore. In its current state, I don’t think a René Redzepi could come out of India,” she said.
Garima also mentioned that she would want to come back to India someday, but was presently focused on making GAA bigger.
Apart from Garima, Gaggan Anand’s restaurant Gaggan also maintained its place on the Michelin list with two stars. Journalist and food critic Vir Sanghvi posted a congratulatory message on Twitter for both Garima and Gaggan.
Congratulations all around. Gaggan keeps his two Michelin stars. ( No one got three). Garima Arora becomes the first Indian woman to get a Michelin star.— vir sanghvi (@virsanghvi) November 14, 2018
And the Sühring twins, who cooked in Delhi a few months ago, go up to two stars @GAGGANBANGKOK pic.twitter.com/s1KeQluR1L