Never compromised on good food: India's first woman Michelin star chef tells WION

'It was my dad. He spent a lot of time cooking in the kitchen all these exotic dishes and I spent a lot of time with him while he cooked. I think that had a lasting impact on me, that's where I learned how to eat well and cook,' Garima said.  Photograph:( WION )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Nov 20, 2018, 07.48 PM (IST)

Thirty-two-year-old Indian chef Garima Arora's culinary trajectory has been the thing that most chefs dream of. She quit her journalism career, went to Paris to study, opened Gaa in Bankok in April 2017 — and won her first Michelin star in only 15 months. 

Garima is the only Indian woman to have won a Michelin star.

She spoke to WION about her extraordinary journey, saying she draws from India's rich culinary heritage for her work. 

"I am an Indian, it comes to me naturally that I draw from my rich heritage. We use a lot of techniques and flavour combinations, but what is more important to me is that why and how are we using these ingredients than just simply putting them for the sake of it," Garima told WION. 

"I am not sure if I'm different from any other chef but the reason for GAA's success is that we have always stood by what we believe good food should be and never compromised on that," Garima added. 

Garima's early experiments with food started in her own kitchen. Till then, Garima Arora was a full-time journalist. Arora grew up in Mumbai and drew inspiration early on from her Punjabi family, particularly her father who loved cooking exotic foods. She says her dad was her inspiration. 

"It was my dad. He spent a lot of time cooking in the kitchen all these exotic dishes and I spent a lot of time with him while he cooked. I think that had a lasting impact on me, that's where I learned how to eat well and cook," Garima said. 

Before opening GAA, Garima studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and worked with several renowned chefs including the celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay, Rene Redzepi and Gaggan Anand.

Arora's restaurant offers a wide range of dishes that are inspired by her Indian upbringing and her international perspective. The restaurant offers its guests different course meals using ingredients familiar to Indians, such as jackfruit, guavas, and pumpkins. 

What is a Michelin star?  

A Michelin Star is every chef's dream, it is one of the most important recognitions in the haute cuisine restaurant community. Michelin stars are awarded to restaurants to signify their excellence. 

- It is a star-based review system started by the Michelin tyre company in 1926. 
- A Michelin star is a hallmark of fine dining quality.
- Restaurants around the world aspire to Michelin star status.

How are Michelin stars earned? 

- One star - a very good restaurant in its category
- Two stars- excellent cooking, worth a detour 
- Three stars - exceptional cuisine worth a special journey

Garima's success mantra is very simple — make good food and make her customers feel like they have eaten something they have never tasted before. 

While a Michelin star means she's got busier, Garima still hopes she can take her signature dishes to more people.


 

Story highlights

Garima Arora opened the Bangkok-based restaurant Gaa in April 2017. She had been a full-time journalist before that.