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Raleigh, NC /

Cheetie Kumar is an Indian-born, Bronx-raised, Southerner, musician, and chef. A five-time James Beard Foundation Awards semi-finalist and two-time finalist for Best Chef: Southeast, Kumar is chef/owner of Ajja in Raleigh, N.C. There, she blends the flavors and techniques of the Mediterranean, Middle East, and beyond. She first moved to Raleigh pursuing a career in music and is the member of two rock bands: The Cherry Valence and Birds of Avalon. In 2013 she opened the acclaimed Raleigh, N.C., restaurant Garland, which closed in 2022. Kumar also serves on the board of the Independent Restaurant Coalition and the Southern Foodways Alliance, along with several North Carolina organizations.