Why We Love Cheetie Kumar
Cheetie may have chased her culinary passions, but she hasn’t forgotten about music. She shreds as lead guitarist in her band, Birds of Avalon, and owns Garland’s upstairs music venue. Talk about inspiring us to follow our own passions.
“The inspiration for food really comes from the ingredients for me. I’m fascinated by the way ingredients have made it from one part of the world to the other just like my family.”
“The most significant connection for me between playing music and cooking professionally is the honing of one's creative process.”
I loved the warmth of the people; there was a sense of community. I realized the State Farmers Market is a mile away, and it’s open every day. I saw there were so many Asian and Indian grocery stores. It felt like a place where I could build my life and figure myself out without having the pressure of living in a big city. It was a place where I could be free.
When people first visit Garland, what dish should they get?
People usually get our Cauliflower 65, that’s usually their intro. We also have a pakora chaat people really love. So those are sort of fun, first-time, big-flavor kind of things. People love our take on Moroccan hummus. It’s kind of like chana masala. Like a Punjabi dish via Morocco served with crispy corn tortilla chips. It has a world of travel all in one. It’s humble, warm, comforting, it’s got a lot of flavor. And it seems exotic but a football fan would love it, you know what I mean?
How are Garland, Neptunes and KINGS similar and different?
We’re a three-story business, with KINGS, the music venue on the top, Garland on the main floor, then Neptunes, the bar, in the basement. They’re all very different, but we hope there’s an unspoken similarity. You can tell there’s a continuity in the aesthetic, being well-sourced and curated, having interesting ingredients and cool stuff on the back bar. We’re not going to have a Hootie and the Blowfish cover band—no offense to them—we’d have a gender-bending dance troupe from New Orleans. At Garland, we won’t have a caesar salad, we’ll have something that excited us because a farmer came in with amazing greens and we wanted to do something amazing and in-season. So, it’s malleable but always appeals to a little bit outside of the mainstream.
What’s your favorite recipe your mom used to make?
Oh, gosh, there’s a lot of answers. I don’t have a favorite recipe, I guess. There’s a very meaningful Punjabi red beans and rice that has a lot of significance in our family. It was one of the first things my mom taught me how to cook, so it has a huge sentimental role in my life. There’s a lot, though! I tend to not be singular in my favorites. I change my mind everyday and it keeps things more fun and exciting.
What are you listening to currently?
I’m really into this band called Beak. I love LCD Soundsystem. I still love Led Zeppelin, David Bowie from the mid-’70s. I love Lizzo, everybody does—Lizzo for President. I like a lot of different kinds of music. Memphis soul from the mid-’60s, Talking Heads, ELO.
What's your favorite guitar?
Well, I have a lot of guitars and I love all of them. It depends on the song. Right now, I’m really in love with my Guild, it’s kind of an unusual electric Guild from like 1973. I also have a clear almost Plexiglass Japanese copy of a Dan Armstrong guitar that I really love. And I love my 1972 Fender Telecaster Deluxe.
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