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A brief biography
2018: first Indian woman to get Michelin star
The bar table in Mumbai-born Thailand-based chef Garima Arora’s GAA restaurant in Bangkok became a makeshift beer pong table in celebration of a rare honour. On November 14, it became the first restaurant helmed by an Indian woman chef to be awarded the prestigious Michelin star. GAA’s maiden star helps it earn a proud place in The Michelin Guide Thailand 2019.
Growing up in Mumbai, Arora would sample various exotic foods her father brought back from his travels. Arora studied mass media at Jai Hind College and worked as a pharma journalist before leaving to pursue her culinary dreams. After a stint at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, she moved to Dubai for two years and then worked in Copenhagen for three years at what is one of the most high-end restaurants in the world, Noma.
Arora worked with celebrated names such as René Redzepi, Gordon Ramsay and Gaggan Anand. A year at Gaggan Anand’s restaurant in Bangkok called Gaggan that has held the number one spot among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for the last seven years running led her to build her own venture. Since then, Gaggan the chef and Garima have partnered in the restaurant Gaa in the heart of Bangkok.
She acknowledged them all in her Instagram message on November 14: “A shout out to the 30 most amazing people I have met over the past year and a half. Each one of them persevered, believed and always showed up. To each member of team Gaa, a big thank you and congratulations now let’s beer pong”.
GARIMA ARORA 33 FIRST INDIAN WOMAN TO WIN A MICHELIN STAR
‘I’m the first to get a star, but I won’t be the last’
In November 2018, just 18 months after she opened her restaurant Gaa in Bangkok, Garima Arora became the first Indian female chef to win a Michelin star. In February, the 33-year-old was named Asia’s Best Female Chef and her restaurant debuted on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Last month, it retained its Michelin star. Arora says there are many reasons why it has taken so long for an Indian woman to win a Michelin star.
“There is no Michelin guide in India and a lot of women don’t move countries to pursue a career in this field because it’s considered a bluecollar job. You move to become an engineer or doctor, not a cook,” Arora says. “But this is changing… I’m the first Indian woman to win a star but I am not going to be the last.”
Her recipe for success, quite literally, has been to learn and showcase India’s culinary heritage. On offer at Gaa: chocolate betel leaf, banana flower doughnut, guava soup and crayfish on khakra to name just a few of her creations. In 2019, Arora launched a not-for-profit initiative called Food Forward India to highlight tribal and rural cuisines.
— Sonam Joshi