Chef Garima Arora Of Gaa Shares Stereotypes About Indian Food

India's first female Michelin-starred chef Garima Arora tells us all of the common stereotypes about Indian food
Chef Garima Arora
Chef Garima Arora

Q Congratulations on being the first Indian female chef to win a Michelin star. Running a restaurant can&rsquot be easy. What is it that keeps you going

A I think I just love what I do. Nothing else really matters. Things always get tough. Sometimes they&rsquore easy, and you get lucky, and sometimes you get unlucky. That&rsquos just life. But what gets you through all of that is your need to do something great.

Q Your father introduced you to food from around the world while growing up. Have your personal travels helped influence your food style too

A For me, travelling isn&rsquot just travelling because I have lived in five different countries in the last decade, and culturally I brought a lot back from these places. All of that is reflected in my restaurant today. My food wouldn&rsquot taste what it does today if I had left India and come straight to Bangkok.

Q So, how would you describe the food at Gaa What can one expect

A You can expect something that you&rsquove never tasted before. It&rsquos going to be an experience that is completely new and completely different. Some like it, some don&rsquot, but what everybody agrees on is that it is so different.

Q Your tasting menus highlight many vegetarian ingredients, not a common thing with Michelin-star restaurants. Why is that

A I enjoy vegetarian food much more than I do meat. And no one can tell the difference&mdash that&rsquos the skill of a cook. What do you like when you eat meat It&rsquos not the flavour, because it doesn&rsquot really taste of anything. What you like is the umami&mdashthe bite. A tomato cheese pizza will give you the same satisfaction as eating meat. The trick is to make your vegetables umami-rich and you&rsquoll never miss the meat. So many people eat our jackfruit dish and don&rsquot believe there&rsquos no meat in it. You have to know what to do with your vegetables. And they&rsquore so versatile. A chicken will always taste like chicken, but you can cook pumpkin in 50 ways and it will give you a completely different result each time.

Q Have you borrowed any Indian cooking techniques in your food

A Because I am Indian, I do borrow heavily from such techniques. In Indian cuisine, we do a lot of pickling and fermentation, which are a big part of how we eat&mdashright from working with cultures to lactic acid fermentation. Just how we make yoghurt is so amazing

Q What are the misconceptions that people have about Indian food

A The biggest thing is that people think curry is from India. It&rsquos extremely annoying. The second stereotype is that just because I&rsquom Indian and a woman, they expect me to make typical Indian food. When we opened Gaa, and I served the kind of food I do, a lot of people just couldn&rsquot understand it. They would say, &ldquoThis is not Indian food.&rdquo And I would go, &ldquoYes, I know&mdashit&rsquos not supposed to be. I never said I&rsquom cooking Indian&rdquo But these are stereotypes that one just has to fight. We can be trendsetters as well, we can invent stuff as well, and we can push avant-garde cuisine as well.

Q It must be exciting for you to represent India on the world food map then.

A I&rsquom always proud of where I come from. However, I wish I didn&rsquot have to leave it. I had to because it&rsquos so difficult to do a business and open restaurants in India. If anything good comes out of this, I hope it&rsquos a change in the right direction, just in terms of ease in doing business in our country.

Q What is on the table next

A Well, you have to wait and watch. Of course, there is a new burst of energy and a lot of ideas are flowing. Let&rsquos see which direction this all takes. I think a trip to India is definitely due.

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