Arpana Gvalani On How Gostana Brings Food & Culture Together
If you’ve been in and around Bandra long enough or hobnob frequently within the city’s creative circuit, chances are that you’re already familiar with Gostana, Bandra. One particularly warm afternoon, we found ourselves chatting up with Arpana Gvalani, chef and founder of the eatery, who fed our curiosity about Gostana with much charm.
Arpana studied at the Blue Mountains Hotel Management School in Australia. Gostana started out as an experimental kitchen in Powai, which became quite a huge hit, bringing in patrons from South Bombay and Bandra. “The idea came into being 13 years ago,” Arpana reminisces, “my partner and I were setting up a nightclub in Delhi. One night, we were out at a local burger joint and I was telling him about this grilled chicken burger I used to love back in Australia. He recreated the sauces based on the flavours I remembered. We decided to make the burger healthy. When we came back to Bombay, we decided to start Gostana.” Increasing popularity, led them to transition from an experimental kitchen to an eatery. “We started out with two or three burgers, and now we have 12 – all healthy!” she beams.
Healthy burgers are not Gostana’s only appeal. Arpana was inducted into Kala Ghoda as the Music Curator five years ago. And her learnings during this stint reflect in her approach to Gostana. She explains, “My brother was a drummer in this band back in the 90s, so they would rehearse at my place. Whenever my musician friends from Delhi would come down, they’d stay at my place. So, my house was a centre for a lot of musical activities. I wanted Gostana to reflect that vibe.” She now wants to focus on building a full-time cultural hub at Gostana. One of her big steps in this direction is partnering up with The Hive. There are 3 open mics a week – Monday (music), Tuesday (poetry) and Thursday (stand-up comedy).
What are some of the difficulties she faces as a small business owner? “Running a business in India is challenging. You have to struggle for licenses and the BMC is always on your back. Apart from that, I avoid overstaffing, which means I’m working 7 days a week. But at the end of the day, the love that people give this place is a good feeling to take home”, she shares. Gostana has been in business for close to 10 years now, and Arpana credits it to constant evolution, “We’re currently redoing our kitchen. We’ll be adding smoothie bowls and more interesting dishes to our menu. We’re also growing our own herbs and salads. Soon, we’ll be using all ingredients from our own mini-garden!”
How does Arpana unwind from such a consuming routine? She laughs, “I go to my parents’ place and do nothing except get into the most comfortable clothes, watch TV, have a drink and sit with my dogs. I don’t even talk!” And what about skincare? “I have very oily skin, so I stick to water-based products. I start my day by applying Pericone
MD on my face and end the day with a Neutrogena cleanser.” But her real secret to great skin is something else, “I drink about 5 litres of water every day – the aftermath of a kidney stone incident. And at least one meal a day has to be raw veggies.”
We ask Arpana what her advice to women entrepreneurs would be. Her reply is simple yet useful, “Whatever you do, you need to have some technical knowledge about it. Natural talent is great, but you need to back it up with technical know-how about your craft.”
If indulging in burgers that taste like heaven or dipping in some culture aren’t reason enough for you to drop by Gostana, here’s a big one –George Harrison’s (yep, THE George Harrison) original guitar hangs on Gostana’s wall. If you’re nice, Arpana will even let you touch it.