Women’s Day 2023 Garima Arora: People around you also need to change
Be it becoming the first female Indian chef to win Michelin Star or judging the Masterchef India as first female judge, celebrity chef Garima Arora has set a new standard in the culinary world
The first female Indian chef to win a Michelin Star and Masterchef India’s first female judge, chef Garima Arora’s achievements require no introduction. The 36-year-old chef says, “You see a lot more women choosing this profession nowadays. If a person is skilled, she can achieve whatever she wants but the issue arises when the people around are not supportive. This profession demands hours away from family and home even during festivals. If you have a family around you that supports your goals and dreams, and has your back when you go to work, that’s what a woman needs. The change needs to happen with the people around. They need to wake up and realise that it’s their job to support the women in their life just as much as its her job to support them.”
Arora, who was a mass media student, found her interests towards food world at early years of her career. “I studied Mass Media from Jai Hind college, Mumbai as I was somewhere drawn to journalism and loved writing. I did an internship with Times Now after which I worked with Indian Express for 6 to 8 months. But at that age, when I was also started experimenting with food, somewhere I realised that if I want to become a chef later on, I should start young because it is physically very demanding job. And that’s when I decided to make that career switch knowing that its a kind of a profession the younger you are, the better it is to start,” she shares.
The chef, who has set a new standard in the culinary world, shared her experience on winning Michelin Star. She says, “The first person I called up was my father to share the news because everything you achieve in life because of your parents and it all leads upto this moment,” adding, “It was a fantastic validation for all the hard work that we have put in. Michelin has never been a singular win this was a team win. All the people that have been part of my restaurant Gaa for so many years now, seeing them that happy and excited, it was a personal win. When you create something that has a personal impact on people’s lives, that’s a very empowering feeling.”
Behind every success there is difficulties, hard work and determination. For Arora, opening her restaurant Gaa to explore modern Indian cooking at a new country was no cakewalk. “Setting up a business in a country where you don’t belong, and managing the balance between the creative side and the business side, these are the general difficulties somebody in this position would face because you are in charge of both the business and creative end and that balance is probably the trickiest one. After which, of course Covid period was the most difficult time for not just our restaurant but restaurants everywhere. It was a big wake-up call to the format of our business. It was a big awakening because it was 2 years of no funds coming in and meanwhile you are paying rent, paying salaries, all of those things don’t go away. That was I think the toughest time that we have seen in our restaurant. Other than that, the struggles for anybody starting something of their own and trying to do something different while making a difference, perhaps are same for anybody no matter what you are trying to do. There are moments of doubts, conflicts or triumph, its a whole package. There are good days and bad days. There are more bad days than good days but you go through all of those to see through your good days,” she shares.
She came back to India after almost 15 years to host the MasterChef India as the first-ever female judge of the show. “I have witnessed an evolution in the food landscape over the years. It’s been an eye-opener as I haven’t been in India for the last fifteen years, coming back and seeing how the food landscape has evolved and people’s appreciation for their own food, that’s the most amazing and inspiring things to see. I remember when I left India to start my culinary journey, everybody was obsessed with things, ingredients or cuisines which were foreign to us. Everybody wanted international cuisine and 15 years later, I see the amount of pride these home cooks have in the food of their community and how diners are now looking for authentic Indian regional experiences. Not only at their homes but also at the restaurants. I think just the drastic shift in perception of what good food is, what good and skillful cooking is, are the most interesting things to see personally and also on the MasterChef India kitchen,” she adds.