Brothers Kamran '06 and Salman Cheema '01 always envisioned owning and operating a restaurant, and 2015 was their year. They opened the South Asian eatery Grand Trunk in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, D.C. (641 Indiana Avenue NW) in January 2015. With its eccentric décor and menu—televisions on floors and ceilings, and a menu that serves everything from Indian food to bagels, cupcakes, and burritos—the restaurant reflects the wide range of flavors from South Asia, the region of their ancestors.
“Each day seems to be getting more exciting than the day preceding!” said Kamran. “There really is no typical day; from working on developing new recipes with our chefs, to developing the launch of “GrandTrunkTV” (a new part of our unique digital experience), to managing sponsorships and catering events, there is a ton going on for both of us each day.”
The brothers drew upon their international adventures and experiences with diverse culinary offerings when developing their restaurant concept. In fact, Kamran remembers a specific day in Middle School at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes that changed everything for him: “My teacher, Bob Weiman, showed us a slide show of his recent trip to China, and we spent the entire day focused on learning about the country. It really fired me up for traveling to the Far East, and the rest is history.” Today Kamran speaks Mandarin and has traveled to China six times. “The global perspective that both Salman and I share and bring to our careers is really rooted in the classroom inspiration and trips that we took while students at SSSAS.”
A cornerstone of their business is engagement with charitable causes and taking a firm stance against food waste. Grand Trunk routinely sponsors charity events and donates any oversupplies of food to local non-profit organizations like Martha’s Table. Most recently they helped with “Taste of the South,” where the proceeds went to Camp Koinonia, an outdoor education program for children with disabilities. “Community service and giving back are virtues that we are proud that SSSAS instilled in us,” Kamran said. “We hope to expand our philanthropic efforts moving forward.”
Kamran graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in political science. Salman earned degrees from Syracuse University and University of Miami School of Law and, in addition to co-owning Grand Trunk, operates a law practice in Herndon, Virginia. He has a daughter, Rania, who is 5 years old. “It has been an amazing experience so far,” said Salman. “We’ve been thrilled to have a bunch of fellow Saints alums come by since opening. During the summer if you happen to see green and red cushions or sun umbrellas on our outside patio facing Pennsylvania Avenue, we think you’ll know why!”