Journey To The Stars: Chef Garima Arora On Her Two-Michelin Star Win & Culinary Journey

Garima Arora

Garima Arora’s foray into the culinary world began with her love for eating and cooking with her dad – who equally loved the art – while growing up. She may have opted for a career in journalism, but when she realised that food was her calling, she made the switch and studied culinary arts in Paris and began working at a patisserie. Hard work, passion and perseverance led her to work with some of the notable chefs in the industry. Following her stint in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen in Dubai and René Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen, Arora launched her fine dining restaurant, Gaa – which specialises in modern Indian cuisine – in 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand. Since then, the chef has been on a roll.


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In 2018, Garima Arora became the first Indian female chef to earn a Michelin Star at the age of 32, just one year after opening Gaa. In the following year, she was voted Asia’s Best Female Chef 2019 while her restaurant Gaa officially entered the ranks of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, debuting at No. 16 with the Highest New Entry Award. In 2022, Arora was the winner of the Michelin Guide Young Chef Award.

Arora also became the first female chef to debut as a judge on the cooking reality show MasterChef India Season 7 in 2023. In the same year in December, Restaurant Gaa received its second Michelin star in the 2024 Michelin Guide. This makes Arora the only Indian female chef to win two Michelin stars. Her love for Indian chaat also made her launch Marigold, which offers freshly crafted Indian mithais, chaats and artisanal snacks in Bangkok. 

Garima Arora

With so many feathers to her cap, she has forged a path for budding female chefs in the country. The chef was in Mumbai recently for a few projects. We caught up with her for a quick chat on her two-Michelin star win and more. Excerpts from the interview ahead. 

ELLE: I know you often get this question, but what made you launch Gaa and why in Thailand? 

Garima Arora (GA): It was the other way around; Thailand chose me. I was just going to spend some time there and move back to India for a while. I made a little pit stop, one thing led to the other, and before I knew it I had a restaurant there and I was not coming back home. 

I knew I wanted to do Indian food, but I always believed that applying Indian techniques to local Thai produce should create something new and unique. And it proved to be right to an extent. It was quite interesting to see how the same ingredients are used in two different cuisines in different ways. One of the first dishes we ever did was an ode to the betel leaf or the paan ka katta, as we say. Of course, we always eat it sweet. They always eat it savoury. So we started our meal with a savoury take on the betel leaf and then we finished it with a sweet kind of bookending. 


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ELLE: Gaa must be receiving so many diners from all over the world. What is their perception of Indian food before and after dining at Gaa? 

GA: I think the thought is very simple and we only have ourselves to blame. They only think Indian food is curries and naans. And when they sit down, what they experience is far from it. They are amazed at how are we able to balance so many spices and yet not be spicy or spice-heavy and that’s what I tell them because that’s how we eat at home. For example, if my mother is making ajwain ki paratha, the star is the ajwain and then we let that shine. Not that we don’t use other spices to bring that up but you will taste the ajwain first. Similarly, if you’re eating dal with hing ka tadka, the star of the dish is hing. Whatever it might be, we play with spices but we don’t overdo them. That’s how we eat. That’s Indian food. It’s nuanced, balanced, playful and fun. 

Garima Arora

ELLE: You’re the first Indian female chef to receive two Michelin stars. How does that feel? 

GA: It had been quite a year for me and of course, we had just shot for MasterChef India. I just had a baby and I was sleep-deprived, so all of that combined, at that moment, the weight of the entire year was off my shoulders and it was an overwhelming moment. It was a great validation not only for me but for the team. The team that held the fort down while I was away both on maternity leave and shooting for Masterchef. So I think for them it was the biggest win. It was quite nice.

ELE: Does having two stars add more pressure or motivate you? 

GA: It motivates us. I think we’ve been doing something right so far. We’ll continue to do that.

ELLE: What are your thoughts on food-based travel today?

GA: I think there’s no better reason to travel. Whether it is vanity-driven or utility-driven, people have travelled to eat for food or in search of food. 

ELLE: What do you think of India’s current culinary landscape?

GA: Oh, this is going to be the place to eat and the place to work in the next decade if not sooner. It’s such a great time to be a chef in this country. Minus the bureaucracy of running a restaurant and owning one, I think you’re limited only by your imagination. So much is possible in this country right now. I don’t think there’s a better time to be an Indian. This is an amazing time for us.

ELLE: What’s your advice for budding female chefs?

GA: It’s not at all glamorous. If you want to be a chef, be ready to get burnt and cut. Any woman who wants to become a successful chef needs to work hard, keep her head down, work hard and pay her dues. There are no shortcuts in this job because it’s the experience that matters. 

ELLE: What’s next for Gaa and you? 

GA: For Gaa, we keep pushing and working towards our goal of doing things with Indian food. For me, I just want to try to get some sleep and rest.

Also Read: Journey To The Stars: Trèsind Studio’s Chef Himanshu Saini Shares What It Takes To Be A Two Michelin Star Chef

- Lifestyle Editor


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