By Joyce Appelman
Just like people who bring a unique perspective to the table, every menu too tells a story; the arc stretching from the first bite to the last. NYWCA member Garima Kothari, Pastry Chef, Menu Developer & Event Manager for Aramark, NYU, harnesses these stories utilizing each section of the menu to reveal something new; and by the end of a meal or event guests have had a unique culinary experience that was artistic, delicious and touched every desire.
Tapping those desires for experiential dining and unique menus is something Kothari focuses on both while at NYU and as she consults on designs for pastry menus, wine-pairing with desserts and confectionary; conducts vegetarian, vegan & paleo-friendly culinary workshops. She also brings this same framework to the jobs she takes on in her role as a food stylist and recipe developer for many Indian gourmet companies.
A native of India, Kothari learned to cook from her mother when she was a child. But when it came time to choosing a career, her family questioned her culinary career path, insisted it was unacceptable, and so, instead of following her passion, she went ahead & earned an MBA which catapulted her into the banking industry.
That didn’t last long. Though she completed her business education at the NMIMS University in Mumbai, India and worked in banking after just a few years she decided to leave banking behind and followed her passion for the food and beverage world. She left India and headed to Paris to begin a career in the food and beverage world and enrolled a Le Cordon Bleu. While at Le Cordon Bleu she enrolled in the wine and the pastry programs, earning a certificate in Essential Wines and a Diploma in Pastry. She then moved to Jacksonville, Florida and continued her training at FSCJ, earning an Associates Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. Following her studies, she refined her craft at some local restaurants including Amaretti Desserts where she was the head baker and PR Manager and an Events Associate and Pastry Chef at Picasso’s Restaurant. In 2015, she moved to New York and landed at Vitae, an upscale fine dining restaurant as the Pastry Chef and Event Planner. Most recently she joined Aramark at NYU as a Pastry Chef, Menu Developer & Event Manager.
For someone with such a short culinary career she has amassed an impressive list of credentials and recognition. She received a certification from ICC to work as a food stylist for media, was among the top 15 finalists in a national level televised competition of MASTERCHEF INDIA in 2010; was awarded “The most innovative recipe” in a competition held at a culinary school for Indian Cuisine in India; and has had a recipe published in the Florida Times Union Newspaper. She is often asked to create innovative or convert regular recipes to vegan, vegetarian and paleo friendly options.
We recently sat down with her to tell us about her life, the important work she does every day, and becoming a member of NYWCA.
NYWCA: What do you do for a living/what’s your title?
GARIMA: I am a Pastry Chef & Events and Catering Manager at Aramark, NYU in Manhattan’s West Village.
NYWCA: What’s your day- to-day (or week to week) task list like?
GARIMA: Apart from my daily ritual of yoga, nothing else is routine. Every day there is a unique event with a different bunch of people. I have been extremely fortunate to work with Sarah J. Parker, Cher, Pepsi Co CEO-Indra Nooyi, Microsoft CEO- Satya Nadella, celebrated author-Deepak Chopra, Melinda Gates, celebrated Tabla player- Zakir Hussain, etc. I also design pastry menus on a consultancy basis. I have created menus for pre-desserts, post-desserts, wine-pairing with desserts and confectionery too. Apart from these, I conduct vegetarian, vegan & paleo-friendly culinary workshops. I am also a food stylist and recipe developer for many Indian gourmet companies.
NYWCA: What are your biggest challenges?
GARIMA: I love that my job is dynamic & keeps me on edge and that I have something new to learn every single day! The fact that I get to meet & help people celebrate their most important events fills me up with so much humility. At the same these things become challenging when there is even a small mistake and there is risk of ruining the happy day. I have to be very careful with every single decision I make and have to keep a strict watch on my employees so that there is no slip-up.
NYWCA: What did you do before your current job?
GARIMA: I have always been a chef! My first memory of cooking is when I was six and was learning how to make an Indian style pancake from my mom. But, my family did not consider being a chef as a respectable profession. So I chose to pursue my second love, and did an MBA from one of the Ivy-leagues of India. I ended up being an Investment banker for three years before I participated in MASTERCHEF India and landed amongst the top 15 in the show. This was a huge boost and I packed my bags and ended up in Paris to study Pastry & Wine for an entire year. It has been four years now and I have not looked back since!
NYWCA: Why should someone else want to be a part of it?
GARIMA: I have been with the Alliance for about eight months now. It is an empowering feeling to be associated with such immensely talented women of the hospitality industry. With every event I attend, I am acquainted to another stellar figure of the culinary world and am inspired in a unique way. I would want more and more women to be associated with the Alliance. It is not only empowering but there are so many ways where the needy can be helped with the association of so many ideas.
NYWCA: Of course, if there’s anything else you’d like to share –please do.
GARIMA: The food & beverage industry is rapidly changing and it is a task to catch up with the changing trends and trying to continuously delight & deliver the best. The interactive dessert parlors are the newest trend and I see an immensely strong future of these cute bars. I see myself designing business plans and talking about new ideas, trends and coming up ways with helping the many effected pools of people when I am not working.