Chef Bal Arneson (known in some circles as the Spice Goddess) is a Vancouver-based author, educator and TV personality, was a delight to meet. Along with her were her two children Anoop Virk, 20, and Aaron Arneson, 10, in Jakarta, while on a tour promoting her latest show, Spice of Life with Bal Arneson, exclusively on the Asian Food Channel where she takes her family on one-of-a-kind adventures in the kitchen and outdoors!
Bal (aka Bal Jit) immigrated to Canada from India after an arranged marriage and then separated from her husband when her daughter was only a year old. With no money and little English she started cleaning people’s homes.
She remembers ‘Anoop used to sit on top of the vacuum cleaner as I cleaned people’s homes.’ She was not allowed to study after standard eight and had to ‘learn all that was required to be a good housewife’. Coming from an Asian background and understanding that education is the key to development, she focused on education ‘I went to school and graduated. I also completed my Masters in education and now teach children with learning disabilities. To support my college education, I started giving cooking classes never imagining that it would lead to my own international TV show on AFC,’ shared Bal
Bal mentions her mother and her childhood kitchen every time she talks about the spices that she loves so much and where she learned to cook. ‘My parents have since migrated to Canada and are based in Toronto. They were very disappointed with me when I separated from my husband and disowned me. I have tried reaching out but it has not worked,’ she shared.
‘When I was young my role models were Mata Gujri and Rani Jhansi. My personal life experience came from falling again and again, and continuing to keep getting up and learning from my mistakes. My Masters in Education gave me the ability to think critically and have an open mind to many different viewpoints.’ She has emerged victorious and strong from her hardship through her determination and positive outlook. ‘I want for my daughter to be independent and strong’ she adds.
She recounts when no publisher wanted to publish her healthy Indian cookbook as she had had no formal culinary training or experience. She approached a local publisher, Whitecap Books, “I told him that I’ve been cooking since I was six! I took my no-butter chicken to for him to try and got the book deal.’ “He loved the idea for the book and my passion for it.” she says. To promote her book she did some TV promos and the ‘TV loved me and the rest is history,’ she says with a big smile.
Her first cookbook published in 2009 Everyday Indian: 100 Fast, Fresh and Healthy Recipes and now she is promoting her third Bal’s Spice Kitchen. In 2010, Bal Arneson’s series, Spice Goddess, was launched on the US Cooking Channel and Food Network Canada. She has not looked back since and is now on a tour promoting her latest show on AFC across SE Asia with her children.
Recently she had the pleasure of attending the “The Hundred-Foot Journey” New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theater and meeting Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey with her children. ‘Shake Aron’s hand as he shook Steven Spielberg hand,’ she urges.
Her rags to riches story is an inspiration. Her journey to becoming everything she is today began a long time ago as a little girl in India. From a small village Tibbi in Punjab cooking in a clay kitchen, she is now a world renowned chef, author, educator and TV personality. Very authentic, warm and most admirable is her engagement of her children in all facets of her life.