With Chef Garima Arora | Knife’s Edge

By Krishna Bahirwani September 24, 2017
Image: Rudreksh Pawar

Garima Arora of Restaurant Gaa has an ever-evolving personal style when it comes to cooking, with a focus on creating culinary delights based on local produce. Bringing together her enriching experiences of working at restaurants like Noma, voted the best restaurant in the world and Gaggan, selected as Asia’s best restaurant, she creates a style of food that is unique to her. Elevating food consumption from something simply used for sustenance and taste, she provides a journey through bursts of flavour, varying textures and exotic ingredients.

On the occasion of her collaboration with Masque, we got a chance to ask her a few questions. Here are edited excerpts from the interview –
Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m originally from Bombay, I studied to be a journalist here, but somehow that did not pan out for me, and somewhere along the line I knew I wanted to cook, ended up travelling to Paris to study at Le Cordon Bleu. Almost ten years ago, I left the city to learn how to cook, worked my way through different restaurants, and it’s my first time coming back home and cooking in India.

What constitutes a dish made by Garima Arora?

I think my food is very personal; it’s not a particular cuisine that you can name. It’s my experiences from the past ten years working in different kitchens with different people from various nationalities, all accumulated into where we are which is in the middle of Thailand. So that is what the food reflects, and that’s what I try to reflect, most importantly where we are. If you are in Mumbai, your food should reflect that I think. If you are in the middle of a desert, your food should reflect it.

What do you keep in mind when implementing a local cuisine?

At the restaurant we have two approaches to making a dish, it’s either technique or produce. We start with one and of course somewhere down the line, the two meet. We try to create something new, some new flavours, some new textures, an experience which does not exist anywhere else.

Your style is very experimentative. Is that because you want to evolve into a particular style?

I think a chef’s style should be ever-evolving. If it is a personal cuisine your are presenting, it is a part of who you are on a plate and as you evolve your food evolves with you. I think how I cooked two months ago is not how I cook today, I hope it is not how I cook six years from now or ten years from now. I think that will change and it should change.

You don’t offer an a la carte menu at Gaa. Is there a reason for that?

It was an approach I decided to take when we opened because what we were doing was very different. It was just helping people understand our voice, taking them through the journey of our food, so they know what we are about. That is the reason I chose to do a tasting menu. I’m not the biggest fan of the format, to be honest, but at that point when we were doing all these new things, it was a better way to introduce people to our style. Going forward, however, I will go the a la carte way. It’s a more fun approach.

Tell us a little bit about your collaboration with Masque and chef Prateek

I don’t think there could have been a better kitchen or a better team to work with for my first time back home. Prateek and his team are some of the most humble, open-hearted, supportive people I have cooked with. They have incredible knowledge of all these crazy little ingredients from all over the country, which is how we like to do things as well. We tried to put to use all of the resources and knowledge that they have.

To see the dishes prepared for the collaboration, visit Masque’s Facebook page.