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Raleigh, NC /

Cheetie Kumar is the chef/owner of Ajja, a restaurant in Raleigh’s Five Points neighborhood that draws inspiration from the diverse foodways and cultures, vibrant spices, and cooking techniques of the Mediterranean, the Middle East and beyond. Ajja opened in June 2023 and is a James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. Ajja was also named an Esquire Best New Restaurant and Eater’s Best New Carolinas Restaurant.

An India- and Bronx-raised Southerner and musician, Cheetie earned two James Beard Foundation Award nominations (and five semifinalist nods) for “Best Chef: Southeast” for her multi-cultural menus that blended the flavors of South Asia and the surrounding regions with local agriculture at the beloved Garland, which closed in 2022. Ajja builds on the legacy of Garland and continues telling the rich story of North Carolina’s growers, farmers and purveyors in a vibrant indoor-outdoor neighborhood restaurant.

Cheetie has been profiled in The New York Times, Southern Living and The Wall Street Journal, among many other national publications. She is active in food advocacy and serves on the board of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, the Southern Foodways Alliance and several North Carolina-based organizations. In fall 2023, Cheetie joined World Central Kitchen’s Chef Corps, a global network of culinary leaders who champion World Central Kitchen’s work providing fresh meals following crises.

Generously supported by Visit North Carolina