Ashley Christensen Featured in Bon Appetit, Bids Farewell to Vin

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Galecke Photography

The September edition of Bon Appetit has a great story featuring Raleigh’s own Ashley Christensen.  Entitled “Women Chefs: The Next Generation,” the story discusses the stories of six women chefs from across the country, including Melissa Perello, Kelly Liken, Naomi Pomeroy, Allison Vines-Rushing, Alexandra Raij and Christensen.  These young chefs, all under 40, had a round table discussion with the trail-blazing Evan Kleiman, owner of LA’s Angeli Caffe and host of the great radio show, Good Food (a podcast of the round table discussion should be released shortly).

The article includes a recipe from each restaurant and delves into each chef’s favorite foods, including Christensen’s love of a dish from Mark Ladner’s and Mario Batali’s Lupa in New York: “It’s this pork shin that’s brined, and then it’s braised and the bone’s removed, and it’s tied, and it’s deep-fried. The outside is the equivalent of a pork crackling and the inside is very similar to barbecue. Texturally and theoretically, it hits on all these levels.”  Ashley loves her some pork — especially twice-cooked in this style!

With all the hub-bub of the Bon Appetit article, perhaps the bigger news for local diners is that Christensen has announced her retirement as the Executive Chef at Enoteca Vin, where she has headed up the kitchen since New Year’s Eve of 2001.  With her new restaurant, Poole’s Downtown Diner, receiving accolades and taking up the vast majority of her time, Christensen felt it was appropriate to focus all of her efforts into her young establishment, and her last day at Vin was July 31st.  “Vin is in great hands,” Christensen stated earlier today, referring to Brian O’Hara, who will take over Vin’s kitchen at least in the short term.  “He has the same cooking philosophy as me, and I don’t expect there to be much of a change in Vin’s style.”  Christensen’s departure from Vin was completely amicable and certainly was no surprise to me, and I doubt it was a surprise to Chrish Peel, Vin’s co-owner.  She has hardly cooked at Vin lately, spending almost all of her time at Poole’s, and Vin has repeatedly promoted Poole’s in email blasts sent to their customers.  Frankly, this is the best of both worlds, when a place like Vin recognizes how much a chef like Christensen has meant to its operations, but also recognizes that ending a relationship can be a positive experience for restaurant and chef.  Seeing that I saw Chrish Peel at Poole’s on its opening night, I suspect he’s pretty damn proud of Ashley, just as he is of Lantern’s Andrea Reusing of Chapel Hill, Vin’s original chef.

And speaking of proud, we in Raleigh should also be so with the Bon Appetit article.  We have in our own town a top-notch chef, someone who flat out knows how to cook.  Christensen may be a friend, but my friendship doesn’t make her food taste any better, nor does it give her the recognition she’s receiving all across the country.  Christensen has cooked at the Beard House, been featured in Food & Wine, will be cooking at the Southern Foodways Alliance’s annual symposium in October, and is quite simply one of the best damn chefs around.  She may not do culinary acrobatics, but her food just always tastes great.  My buddy Brooks always says the sign of a great chef is his or her ability to roast a chicken perfectly, and Ashley Christensen pulls more flavor out of a chicken than anyone I know.

Fortunately, by having more time to focus on Poole’s exclusively, Christensen will be initiating a novel Tuesday night dinner series in the early Fall.  Featuring a prix fixe menu, Christensen intends to introduce new items to the menu and to break away with different ideas during these Tuesday meals.  Heck, Poole’s will even take reservations on these nights.

Women chefs have it tough, as it’s a dog-eat-dog, testosterone-laden profession, and Ashley Christensen has persevered to the point where she’s getting recognized not only by us, her customers, but by the national media.  We’re really quite lucky to have such a kick-ass chef running her own restaurant, following her own rules, and now the world knows it, too.  I guess the world will just have to come to Raleigh.

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11 Responses to Ashley Christensen Featured in Bon Appetit, Bids Farewell to Vin

  1. Rafe says:

    Well deserved recognition, for sure. My wife and I have made Poole’s our regular Friday night stop pretty much since it opened. There are a lot of restaurants I really enjoy in the Triangle, but none enough to tempt us away from our weekly stop at Poole’s.

  2. My Buddy Brooks says:

    She may well be a great chef, but there isn’t anyway, no matter how good it is, that she pulled more flavor out of a yardbird than Ann did last night. Give her a few years, maybe. Now? Fat chance. That was some swell chicken last night.

  3. Varmint says:

    Of course, My Buddy Brooks is referring to his girlfriend, Beard Award-winning chef, Ann Cashion. So that would be tough competition indeed.

    On another note, now that the Bon Appetit article is online, I wanted to hear comments about the chefs’ photograph from people who know them. First, I’m not sure that I would have ever recognized Ashley, as I’ve never seen a spot of makeup on her before (rumor has it that they took pictures of her with her hair down, which would have been even rarer, perhaps). Second, Allison Vines-Rushing looks like she’s about 14 years old. She’s certainly youthful and diminutive (and one hell of a great cook), but she sure ain’t 14, either!

  4. VaNC says:

    Funny you should mention that picture, Varmint. I was looking at it when I got my issue thinking..this is a freaky picture. All these women look REALLY uncomfortable. And I would have said that even if I hadn’t known that Ashley didn’t look anything like herself.

    Funny you should mention that about Allison V-R. I remember looking at her thinking, certainly she isn’t as young as she looks. I remember also thinking the amount of make-up on all of them just looked more “starlet” than natural.

    What bothered me, too, was the contrast between the average picture of male chefs, where they are always shown looking relaxed and cocky, but this picture was just stilted and overdone. Kinda creepy.

    To me it also is a contrast between food magazines. We have long gotten Gourmet, but just started getting Bon Appetit as a christmas present. I like the recipes in Bon Appetit and some of the articles, but the look of the magazine is just wierd. It is hard to tell the ads from the articles, maybe due to typeface or style they use? The first half of the magazine is all ads, it seems. THe style of the pictures throughout is just not on the same caliber as Gourmet. So I find myself looking forward to getting Gourmet more than Bon Appetit, more based on style than content….I just find the layout and style of Bon Appetit annoying.

  5. Maddy says:

    Loved that AC was featured in Bon Appetit, was a real surprise for me when I got this month’s edition. I was bummed though that she only had one line printed from their interview. I would liked to have learned more about her!

  6. MB says:

    I had the opportunity to dine at Poole’s on Friday night. The meal was absolutely wonderful. The tuna I do believe was the best I had ever tasted. Isn’t that space the site of what used to be Vertigo? I will definitely go back and let friends know about Poole’s.

  7. LR says:

    Saturday, Aug. 16 was my husband’s birthday and we went to Poole’s for the first time. The food was great as was the Staff.. I believe the person who took care of us was Luke. We enjoyed the experience so much that we’ll be going back this Saturday for my birthday dinner, which was on the 20th

  8. LR says:

    MB: Poole’s used to be a diner and the name was Poole’s Diner. Ashely just kept the name. What you see ont he pic is how it used to be http://www.poolesdowntowndiner.com/

  9. Varmint says:

    I may not have my facts straight, but Poole’s was originally a pie bakery — Poole’s Pies (and thus the reason that Ashley only serves pies for dessert). It later became Poole’s Diner, and was your traditional “meat n’ three” place. Back in the mid-90s, it became The Vertigo. The menu was a bit funky, the drinks were original, and the place had a great vibe. Over time, however, it didn’t get the attention it needed, and the vibe dissipated as did the quality of the food. The owners tried to revive the space by changing the name back to Poole’s Diner, and for awhile, allowed their Mexican staff to offer Mexican fare for lunch, but it just didn’t make it. Ashley wanted to keep the name, which made the Poole family very happy. They’re elated now.

    I actually ate dinner at Poole’s a week and a half ago for the first time since its opening month, and it’s fantastic. I could eat there once a week. Good thing I don’t, however!

  10. AH says:

    There’s also an article on her this month in North Carolina Signature magazine, in the Guide to Gourmet, along with some other tried-and-true Triangle establishments. Check it out on your local newsstands!

  11. Ayden says:

    nice ill be back to check up on updates

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