Garima Arora's Gaa cooked up a storm, recently, when the restaurant was awarded the Michelin star within two years of its opening. This made the 32-year-old the first Indian woman to get a Michelin! She has also been named in the Entrepreneur India's 35 Under 35 list.
"I kept doing what I believed in, what was right for my restaurant and my team," says Garima Arora.
Garima Arora started her career as a pharma journalist. She left for Le Cordon Bleu Paris, in 2008, to pursue her passion, cooking. Garima has worked with several renowned chefs including Gordon Ramsay and Gaggan Anand. She had also done an internship at Noma in Copenhagen, where she worked with Chef René Redzepi for three months. "I've always known I would want to have my restaurant one day. After some research into the profession, I decided to do it right then, as cooking is very demanding, physically and mentally," says Garima.
The food she serves at Gaa, in Bangkok, is phenomenal. So far, her restaurant has received no external funding, and she doesn't intend to go that way in the future, too. The restaurant has five partners where Garima owns a 20% stake of the company. Speaking about the unique concept of her restaurant, she says, "We're striving to create something unique from age-old and modern techniques. What the guests experience at Gaa is food that doesn't exist outside of my restaurant." Going ahead on the road of profitability, Garima Arora confirms that her restaurant business broke even in January 2019.
Gaa has cooked for around 24,000 guests since its launch on April 1, 2017, including the Indian celebrity guests - Suneil Shetty, Kabir Bedi, Kishore Bajaj, Ashutosh Garg and the Zaveri family.
Being in the restaurant business has its own highs and lows. Speaking about her entrepreneurial journey, Garima Arora says, "The low is the long hours and missing all-time with family and friends, but running your own business is one of the most rewarding feelings. You work alongside your team day in and day out and you grow together."
In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India, Michelin-Star Chef Garima Arora speaks about her entrepreneurial journey with Gaa.
One take away from your early career which you want the young chefs to know
Keep your head down and work hard. There is never ever a shortcut for hard work.
Your experiences while working with Gordon Ramsay and at Noma
Gordon Ramsay's kitchen taught me humility; my experience at Verre humbled me. Noma changed me not only as a cook but also as a person. There I learned that cooking can be a cerebral exercise, it is way beyond just physical work.
The idea behind serving modern eclectic cuisine at Gaa.
We strive to create a modern tasting menu which is completely unique to our restaurant. The ultimate goal is for our guests to leave Gaa feeling the joy of having tasted something new for the very first time.
Your strategy on menu planning at Gaa
There are two approaches to our process: produce and technique. Either we start with an interesting ingredient or a very fascinating technique. Somewhere down the line, the two meet.
May we expect your restaurant in India any time soon?
Right now Gaa and Bangkok is my main focus.
As a chef, what is your approach towards zero wastage food policy?
The kitchen is generally run to make sure that you have the least food wastage. This is to keep your food cost low and this factor alone naturally leans towards sustainability. It makes sense to not waste food, especially from a business standpoint.
Gaa has four investors. Please share key strategies on how a restaurant start-up should approach investors?
- It's better that you have a previous working relationship with them.
- Have to be transparent about your end goal.
- Have a clear business plan.
- Have a timeline in mind where the return of investment is concerned.
- Believe in what you do.