Wisconsin foodies know that Barkha Daily, founder and owner of the award-winning restaurant the cheel, can cook with the best of them in the kitchen. But can she cook on the dance floor?
"Trust me, I can dance all night long. My friends and I used to make up dance routines, and I would practice in front of a mirror. Any time there was a holiday or party, I would perform a dance for everyone and they had to watch it... whether they wanted to or not," Daily said with a laugh.
"My husband says I'm always ready to dance. I could be sound asleep and if he woke me at 4 a.m. and told me I had to get up and dance, I would be ready."
Daily is used to the spotlight. After working about a half dozen years in a variety of strategic marketing roles, Daily and her husband, Jesse, took the plunge and opened the cheel in Thiensville, introducing Wisconsin to cuisine Barkha grew up eating and cooking in her native Nepal.
The popular restaurant has won a long list of awards. Recent accolades include being named to the 2017 50 Best Restaurants by M Magazine, Business of the Year by the Mequon-Thiensville Chamber of Commerce, one of four Instagram-Worthy Boutique Restaurants in Wisconsin 2017 by Travel Wisconsin and a spot on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2017 and 2018 The Milwaukee 50.
A frequent guest on Milwaukee TV, she made a national debut in 2018 when she was one of five Milwaukee-area chefs appearing on the Food Network's new show "Bite Club."
For Daily, the Gala will merge her love for dancing and for her alma mater, Lakeland. She came to Lakeland in 2003 as an international student from Nepal knowing no one, but she quickly ascended to leadership roles on campus.
She graduated in 2007 with a double major in marketing and international business and served as president or vice president for numerous student organizations, from the Global Student Association to Students in Free Enterprise to Habitat for Humanity. She received a Master of Business Administration from Alverno College in 2011.
"I want to give back to Lakeland University, a place that helped me achieve," she said. "When I went to college, a lot of people helped me through scholarships to help me pay for school. Lakeland gave me an opportunity to get a great degree from a great university. Now, I want to give back and be the one giving to students."
Dancing in the Gala is the latest way she's giving back to her alma mater. An active member of Lakeland's Alumni Association executive committee, she's also returned to campus many times over the years, appearing as a panelist for the annual Business Colloquium, Opening Convocation speaker and welcoming graduates on behalf of the alumni association at commencement.
Barkha's professional dance partner is Neil Hollingworth.
Barkha is dancing to support Lexi Upson.