The chef joins us for this week’s episode of Biscuits & Jam.

Cheetie Kumar
Credit: Ribbie Capponetto

About Biscuits & Jam:  In the South, talking about food is personal. It’s a way of sharing your history, your family, your culture, and yourself. Each week Sid Evans, Editor in Chief of Southern Living, will sit down with celebrity musicians to hear stories of how they grew up, what inspired them, and how they’ve been shaped by Southern culture. Sid will take us back to some of their most cherished memories and traditions, the family meals they still think about, and their favorite places to eat on the road.

Episode 8: July 21, 2020

Download and listen to Cheetie Kumar on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or everywhere podcasts are available.

Born to Indian parents in Pennsylvania, Cheetie and her family moved to India when she was just 6 months old. About 8 years later, they relocated back to America. And her mom and dad, both biochemists, worked tirelessly to secure permanent resident status. Cheetie’s mother lost her own parents in the bloody Partition of India as a child, but food eventually became the language that Cheetie and her mother shared. Her love for Indian cooking, and an attraction to the American South after college, sparked Cheetie’s culinary imagination. 

Meanwhile, she also became an avid musician, touring and releasing albums throughout the 2000’s with her bands The Cherry Valance and Birds of Avalon. As a result, she’s often referred to in articles as a “rock star chef.”

Cheetie opened the acclaimed restaurant Garland in 2013, serving Asian and Indian dishes with a distinctly Southern twist. Since then, Garland has become a cornerstone of Raleigh’s food scene, and Cheetie has been a multiple James Beard award semi-finalist, as well as a finalist here in 2020. Here a glimpse into her interview on Biscuits & Jam.

On Growing Up

“In India, I think most of my memories revolved around food and school. That was pretty much my life. I remember a lot of fruit. And I remember a lot of milk. I remember I hated this turnip curry that my mom used to make. But I would kill to have it now. I just remember a lot of food things. And I also remember sitting with my head in the speaker listening to the Beatles Yesterday and Today, on repeat and staring at that album cover.”

On Her Mother

“My mother was a child in what is now Pakistan, and our family is Hindu. She lost her parents and her brother in that migration. The thing that she held onto was food memories and that was the language that she had to connect to her mother and to her childhood. When we moved to America, I helped my mom a lot more, and would cook while she worked. I would make Rajma, the red bean recipe that I've talked about before. I didn't realize its importance until we moved to America and I didn't realize how much I loved it. My mom loved to make it. She made something that she loves and I loved to eat. So it was this connection that I could have with her.”

On Moving to Raleigh

"I really thought that I would stay here for like a year or two and figure it out. But then it just started revealing itself. There was music, this really great spirit of independence, a DIY kind of attitude. Raleigh had an unstoppable attitude about it."

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