India’s Culinary Star, Garima Arora

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Putting Indian flavors on the global map, Garima Arora is just getting started!

The first Indian woman to receive a Michelin Star, the country beams with pride at the sound of her name. Garima Arora’s Bangkok-based restaurant, Gaa, is all about reinventing traditional Indian dishes with rich Thai and Indian flavors. Soon after Gaa was awarded the Michelin star in 2018, she was named Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2019. Known for pairing homegrown ingredients with Indian cooking techniques, her creations are nothing short of culinary genius. Her love for experimenting with new cuisines started way back when her father would travel for work and bring back exotic recipes like hummus and baba rum, which were new and fairly unknown at the time. She enjoys the feeling of trying out a new dish for the first time, and that’s what fuels her cooking to this day.

With Gaa and her other restaurant, HERE, she aims to bring various Indian delicacies to the global citizen. Backed by Indian cooking techniques, she has revolutionalized Indian cuisine. When asked about the initial response toward Indian food in Bangkok, she recalls, “We are in Bangkok where people love dining out and trying new things. In that way, we are so lucky because the response from the get-go has been positive. Our guests have always been adventurous, open-minded, and thoughtful. But even when there’s an initial reluctance, I don’t mind it. I find it gratifying to introduce people to new flavors they’ve never experienced before. That’s part of the fun of it all.”
Ms. Arora seems to have beautifully decoded the vastness of Indian flavors and cooking techniques which has resulted in her being able to apply them to any global cuisine. With that as her foundation, she has charmed her diners with global concoctions that are Indian at heart. In conversation with the star chef herself.

  1. What are the new creations you’re exploring at the moment?
    We are in the R&D phase for our new menus for both Gaa and HERE. We are going hyperlocal with the Thai ingredients and exploring more traditional Indian techniques.
  2. GAA and HERE have very different offerings. How do you juggle the cooking styles?
    Even though each of our restaurants has its own personality, Gaa being our fine dining outlet and HERE being our casual spot, our approach to cooking is the same. We think critically and are serious about bringing forth the real flavors of India while also having fun doing it in our own way.
  3. Which is your favorite comfort food?
    My habits have changed significantly during the pandemic. Since I started taking care of my health through exercise and nutrition, I take comfort in knowing that I have all the power to feel good by moving and eating well. Well, the only time I will indulge is on a date night when my husband is in town at our favorite Italian spot, Enoteca, or go on a hunt for the best Izakaya in Bangkok.
  4. Tackling business during the pandemic must have not been easy. What was the response of your frequent diners?
    We really had to bend backward to keep the restaurants open. It feels like we’ve gone through 10 versions of ourselves! With all the uncertainty surrounding that time, everyone appreciates that they can always walk-in at HERE and get a reliable and delicious meal of authentic Indian flavors. At Gaa, they can expect a good time, being transported for a couple of hours to India.
  5. Which is your favorite locally sourced ingredient that blends best with Indian cuisine?
    I don’t think I can pick just one single ingredient. The reason why Gaa is in Thailand is sole because of the similarities between the Indian and Thai cultures. The very same ingredient is used very differently.
  6. You’re an inspiration to women everywhere, especially in India. What’s next for you?
    Keep my head down and work hard. That will never ever change. The next step is to create an environment for the team around me to learn and grow in the way that they want and ultimately, to make sure that they are happy, not just in their career but hopefully also in their personal life.

When asked about her entrepreneurial journey, she swears by one lesson – focusing 100% on the things that matter. She gladly gives her team all the freedom they need to step into their roles and prove themselves, so that she can, wholeheartedly, focus on her responsibilities. She has a steadfast team that has stood by her right since the beginning. “While we all take our work very seriously, we have become a family, we have fun. There’s no other way when you spend most days of the week for 12 hours a day with a group of people. I always joke that we probably know more about each other than our partners do!”, she reminisces. It’s with this team that she saw her restaurant come to life – a rewarding and life-changing moment that was the result of immense hard work and dedication. Going a step ahead socially, in 2019, Ms. Arora began a foundation called Food Forward India, an initiative that focused on traveling to remote areas in India, exploring the local delicacies, and introducing them to the world.
Making continuous strides in the culinary world, Garima’s story is one that can be narrated to anyone looking for inspiration to follow their dreams. “Maybe if I knew the things that I know now, I would’ve never gotten into it in the first place!”, she jokes. But through it all, the exhaustion and exhilaration, she wouldn’t have it any other way.


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