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Chef spotlight
Barkha Daily - The Cheel

Photos by Matt Haas

September 2015

When Barkha Daily first came to the United States to attend Lakeland College in Sheboygan, she had plans to become a criminal profiler or psychologist. Instead, she ended up majoring in marketing, then earned her MBA from Alverno College, and she worked in international business for several years. But then, she and her husband, Jesse Daily, moved to Thiensville and got involved in the Thiensville Farmers Market. Whenever she promoted the market at events around town, she made food using ingredients from the local market, and people asked her where her restaurant was. That led to the couple opening the areaís first Nepalese restaurant, The Cheel, in downtown Thiensville last year. Over plates of roasted cauliflower and braised wild boar, Barkha sat down with M Magazine to talk about her incredible journey.

M: Celebrating your first anniversary as a restaurant, are you surprised by the response youíve had from customers?

BD: "We didnít know how we would be received, and we took a chance, but itís been so popular. Iíve had people come here and say, ĎI felt like Iíve lived without flavor until I ate here.í We get customers who come form Chicago every two weeks to eat here, and weíve also gotten a lot of customers from Sheboygan, Madison, Elkhart Lake."

M: While The Cheel is a Nepalese restaurant, itís not like other Nepalese restaurants you might find elsewhere. Tell us more about that.

BD: "My mom grew up in Nepal, and my dad grew up in Burma. So in the same household, we combined flavors, and without my dadís mix of cooking ó Malay, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese flavors ó I would not have this base of knowledge. The cooking here is Nepalese, but itís my familyís recipes, which use complex flavors."

M: Do you have any favorite food memories?

BD: "I remember going fishing with my grandpa and then pan-frying the fish right after we caught it. I remember cooking in a clay stove and using actual firewood. Coming from that background and also utilizing modern equipment, I cook by seeing, feeling and touching."

M: Are there any misconceptions about Nepalese food?

BD: "People donít understand curry. When they think of curry, they think of a prepared spice blend. My mom taught me that thereís a different curry for different vegetables, thereís a different curry for chicken and for fish, for pork, lamb and beef. Depending on what protein and vegetable you use, the curry will have a different spice blend. You need to use different mixes of spices."

M: What are some of the new things you want to introduce in your restaurant?

BD: "We are putting Nepalese samosas on the menu, and weíre putting goat (which is a special) on the menu. I want to bring in chayote squash and the jackfruit dish I make at home. Okra has been another thing I want to bring in. I make okra fries, but without breading, and theyíre lightly seasoned and pan-fried. But the yield is so little and thereís so much cutting. I need to figure out a way to do that."

M: What are the tools you cannot live without?

BD: "Oh, a pressure cooker because you can cook anything, and the efficiency is there. I also love cooking with real fire. I hate gas. I like to be able to control the flame."


This story ran in the September 2015 issue of: