Chef Cheetie Kumar, alongside partner Paul Siler, general manager Gaëlle Laforest, beverage manager Lindsay Ogden, and chef Chris Gamble

Our story:

Cheetie Kumar and Paul Siler have been a core part of Raleigh’s independent business community for many years. They first opened music venue Kings in 1999, after years of touring the US and Europe with their bands The Cherry Valence and Birds of Avalon. In 2013, Kings moved to downtown Raleigh on Martin St, and soon after they opened their cocktail bar Neptunes, and Cheetie’s first restaurant, Garland. 

Let the outdoor patio at Ajja transport you

Our values:

Ajja became a reality after many years of cultivating businesses that have centered art, music, farmers, and a global, surprising approach to local ingredients. 

Our practices are informed by our collective experience in the world of hospitality, culinary excellence, independent music and business ownership.  We recognize that this is an ever evolving process.  We are committed to the pillars that inspire us to keep learning and fostering a love for the life we have chosen in this industry.

They are: community, intentionality, respect, sustainability of the planet and people, joy, and all things delicious for the tastebuds, ears and eyes. 

We strive to nurture a team that is enriched by diversity and strengthened by intentional collaboration.

Our business is informed by, and upholds these values – and empowers us and our team to continually grow.

Our Team

  • Gaëlle Laforest

    General Manager

    As General Manager, Gaëlle is constantly working to improve our services and systems. She is always asking: ‘How can we be doing better for our team, our guests and our community?’ A lover of to-do lists, Gaëlle leads our team gently but firmly, with the focus always on growing our team’s skills and our relevance to the neighborhood.


    Originally from France, Gaëlle suffers from greener-grass syndrome and spent many years travelling around, with long stints in London and New Zealand – where she found her funny accent and Kansan husband. In her free time, she enjoys being in the kitchen, the garden, or spending time with her cats Daiquiri and Gimlet. Her perfect day involves a good book, a bottle of white wine and a pint of ice cream.

  • Lindsay Ogden

    Beverage Manager

    Lindsay was instrumental in building what Ajja would be – from our steps of service to our eclectic beverage menu. She is a phenomenal bartender and certified wine professional, making her the perfect person to design our wine list and drive our cocktail program. She’s also the dad of our service team – an honorary boy scout, she is our accidental groundskeeper, and is responsible for all of our best bonfires. She comes up with her best cocktail ideas while lying on the floor, or while listening to audiobooks.
    At home, she tends to her pet fish, shrimp and snails; as well as her many, many plants. She loves to bake, is a gifted painter (ever noticed the intricately decorated rocks that come with your Ajja check?), and spends many weekends in the big city visiting her partner in New York.

  • Savannah Frazier

    Assistant Manager

    Savannah has been with us since the early days of Ajja. She boasts years of experience serving – and a degree in Teaching Design! – and was instrumental in developing our beverage systems as our former Lead Bartender. As the Assistant Manager, she leads our service team, recruits and trains new hires, and keeps service running smooth with boundless energy and creative thinking. You can trust she will have at least three new ideas every single day, and will have implemented one by the following service – she is always thinking about the next steps to make our guests and staff’s experiences better.
    When she’s not managing the dining room or training our service team, you can find her on a walk to Boulted Bread with her dog Beatrice, sipping on a Corpse Reviver, or thrifting vintage Levi’s and antique furniture.

  • Sarah Baugher

    Chef de Cuisine

    Sarah’s experience spans kitchens over the East Coast, having gotten her start in Charleston, and spent the past five years leading kitchens in Pittsburgh, PA. As our CDC, she steers our kitchen team with passion, kindness and curiosity. Sarah loves to listen, tweak, adapt and organize – she knows where to find ideas in herself and others, and can make them come to life on a plate or in a team. Her cool head and positive attitude are a gift to our high energy kitchen!
    A newlywed, Sarah shares her home with her wife, two dogs and two cats. She loves to be out in nature, whether that’s a trail or in her garden. A Georgia native, she relocated to Raleigh from PA in search of more sun, and better peaches!

  • Chris Gamble

    Sous Chef

    A real human Swiss knife, Chris is a spirited and curious chef. He fell into bread by way of pizza, having been on the opening teams for both Pooleside Pies and several Mellow Mushroom branches – and worked for months with Cheetie on creating Ajja’s fully handmade bread program. Beyond bread, Chris is a meticulous chef, ingenious with flavors, and a whizz at fixing the issues big and small that arise daily in the kitchen.
    Chris is at home in nature, and loves to relax and recharge in the forest or by the ocean. In Raleigh, he makes nature happen in his yard, and often boasts sunflowers taller than him! He just recently purchased his own brick pizza oven, and we’re all looking forward to taste tests…

  • Sarah Kenney

    Sous Chef

    Sarah grew up by the beach in Beaufort, and fell in love with the industry while working her first job at Beaufort Grocery. She graduated from CIA, and moved back to Raleigh to find herself working across some of the city’s most well-known kitchens – Crawford & Sons, Koan, Buku, and back in 2018, Garland! Sarah has three loves: her husband Zach, their dog Newman, and Taylor Swift. She is an avid anime lover, and loves quiet days at home with video games and puppy cuddles.

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