Her specialty is comfort food, like fried chicken and macaroni and cheese

USA. HUGE. FOOD NEWS.  She is known to many as the face of Raleigh’s booming scene since opening Poole’s Diner in 2007. Now Ashley Christensen was awarded the title of Outstanding Chef. The award is the highest individual honor for a chef, and Christensen is the only North Carolina chef to ever win the award. Christensen’s downtown Raleigh culinary empire now spans five eating and drinking establishment.

Fast facts:

  • Chef Ashley Christensen was named Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation
  • The award is the highest individual honor for a chef at the “Oscars of the food world”
  • Christensen opened the famed Poole’s Diner in 2007 and now has five eating and drinking spots in downtown Raleigh
  • A sixth venture—a pizza place—is expected to open later in 2019
  • Downtown Raleigh, the historic center of North Carolina’s capital city. Raleigh is known as the “City of Oaks” for its many oak trees.
  • Established in 1990 and often referred to as the “Oscars of the food world,” the James Beard Awards honor culinary professionals who are “making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse and sustainable for everyone.”Christensen is no stranger to the biggest night in dining—in 2014, she took home the award for Best Chef: Southeast; in 2016, her wood-fired venture, Death & Taxes, was a final nominee for Best New Restaurant; and she’s been nominated a total of nine times across three categories.Click photos Best Chef in America

The award comes as a well-earned cap on more good news over the last few years. Upon the release of her first book in 2016, “Poole’s: Recipes and Stories From a Modern Diner,” The New York Times raved. And more recently, the trailblazing chef was named The News & Observer‘s Tar Heel of the Year for her role in “reinventing North Carolina’s food and dining culture and shining a national spotlight on the state”.

In her acceptance speech Christensen reminds her food cohorts, “don’t forget kindness,” a phrase that has adorned the windows of her downtown establishments for several years now.

Poole’s Diner. Pool is modern diner with retro-chic charm that includes its signature double-horseshoe bar, will always be the original Christensen restaurant that breathed new life into downtown Raleigh. It’s likely her most personal offering, too.

The menu—scrawled across giant, mural-sized chalkboards on the restaurant walls—is filled with hearty, rich and unapologetic comfort food items like short rib pot pie and macaroni au gratin. The macaroni, one of a few items that never leaves the chalkboard, is made with three cheeses, topped with sea salt and finished with the broiler.

What’s next. Christensen, whose team in Raleigh has grown to more than 250 employees, isn’t done yet. She has plans to open a pizza place—Poole’side Pies—later in 2019 in the space directly next to Poole’s Diner.
The highly anticipated restaurant has been in the works for several years and is expected to be at least partially inspired by Neapolitan-style pies made of fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, cooked in an extremely hot wood-fired oven.

In the meantime, the acclaimed chef has teamed up with locally-loved salad shop Happy + Hale to create the Poole’side Salad—arugula, shredded kale, charred squash, roasted tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, baked soppressata and more, tossed in a tomato and oregano vinaigrette.

Learn more about Ashley’s eating and drinking establishments here.

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