This fall chef Ashley Christensen graced Charleston with her presence at an event hosted by Butcher & Bee to promote her newly published cookbook Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, available now.
As a Raleigh native, this event was a proud moment for me with my hometown being so well represented. Personally, Christensen is heroic in my eyes for several reasons—mainly her presence in the community as a woman encouraging equality in a state where recently that message has sadly become a part of political turmoil.
Christensen is far more than a chef. In North Carolina, many see her to be more of a public figure, one that opens the doors of her six restaurants in the capital to any and all.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with her personally during this intimate event and she shared with me that she felt it was a responsibility she strongly believes in promoting and hopes more chefs join her in taking a stand against any forms of discrimination.
Upon arrival, guests were greeted with a welcome complementary beverage, a Bitter Islander served on ice from the cocktails section of Poole’s.
The counter top bar that borders the open kitchen of Butcher & Bee was covered with different dishes from Christensen’s cookbook. Family style dishes of chicken livers with hot aioli and pickle relish, charred Brussels sprouts with pomegranate, pecorino and white balsamic and tuna tartare with piment d’espelette served elegantly on a cucumber slice were all laid out for guests to sample. To fulfill any sweet tooth cravings a heap of Challah bread pudding with whiskey apples and crème Fraiche was served towards the end of the feast.
The night was one surely not soon forgotten. While all of the recipes, from cocktails to dishes, in Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner are remarkable what truly struck me about spending time around Christensen was her humble and genuine persona. She and the owner of Butcher & Bee simply sat down beside an older couple during the meal. Later, casually floating around the restaurant signing cookbooks with personal mementos, she spent time getting to know each individual who attended and customizing her notes for all. As a holder of the Best Chef of the Southeast award from the James Beard Foundation, Christensen is geared towards connecting with other common folks, building relationships, and offering a taste of her perfected food.