Episode 1 November 12, 2019

Appalachian Soul Food with Ashleigh Shanti

What is Appalachian Soul Food and how do you convey its complexities on a restaurant menu? Ashleigh Shanti is chef de cuisine at Benne on Eagle in Asheville, North Carolina. She shares her vision of soul food while she makes one of her favorite childhood meals: braised oxtails with buttered rice and pink-eyed peas.

Learn more about Chef Ashleigh Shanti and Benne on Eagle at benneoneagle.com.


Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:05] This is Skillet, the podcast where we cook together and listen to each other. I’m Jen Nathan Orris and I believe the best conversations happen when something delicious is bubbling on the stovetop. So I visit chefs and everyday cooks in their home kitchens. We make a meaningful dish and share the stories behind it. Sometimes it’s a meal that propelled a home cook into the culinary world or a childhood favorite that grandma wrote out in careful cursive on a recipe card. I go over to their home for a few hours and we cook. I record the sounds of them making a dish that brings back memories and then we talk about what comes up. While we eat, we sometimes dig into a deeper topic that fuels them in and out of the kitchen.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:47] So I want to tell you about the day I went over to Chef Ashleigh Shanti’s house. She lives on a cozy street in Asheville, North Carolina, with her partner and their really sweet dog. Ashleigh was settling into a relatively new job as chef de cuisine at the restaurant Benne on Eagle. The menu is often described as Appalachian soul food and I was curious to learn more. It’s only been a few months since I went over to Ashleigh Shanti’s house for this podcast, but since then the world has woken up to her excellence as a chef. Benne on Eagle was named one of TIME’s top 100 places of 2019. The New York Times named Ashleigh Shanti one of 16 black chefs changing food in America. This is a new chapter for Ashleigh, so I wanted to take a look at her past, the people and foods that influenced her growing up and what her vision of soul food looks and tastes like now. When I asked her what she wanted to cook for this podcast, she said she definitely wanted to make something from her childhood in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She decided to cook a full meal, braised ox tails with pink eyed peas and buttered rice. I had never had oxtail, so I was excited to dig into a dish that seemed really different to me. As it turned out, it tasted like one of my favorite foods from childhood, which was surprising, and also a good reminder that food made with love is one of the most universal things you can share with someone. Let’s go over to Chef Ashleigh Shanties house in Asheville, North Carolina.

[00:02:55] [door].

[00:02:55] She opens the door wearing a backwards baseball cap and cut off shorts. We walk through her living room and into her kitchen where the windowsills are lined with vintage postcards and tiny tins that she collected on a recent roadtrip. There is an electric stove humming in the corner, and Ashleigh already has a pot of pink eyed peas and a pot of rice on the stove. She’s ready to get cooking, so let’s hand things over to her.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:03:20] I am Ashleigh Shanti, the chef de cuisine at Benne on Eagle, and today we are making red wine braised oxtails with pink eyed peas and buttered rice. Oxtail is something that I grew up making. This is just kind of a spin on how my mom would have made it. But yeah, there’s a lot of parallels and similarities as to how I ate it as a child and what we’re doing today.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:03:45] And why did you choose the peas and the rice to go with them?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:03:48] Carolina Gold rice, it’s something that people commonly in the south. I grew up eating rice with almost every meal. Peas are another thing that I grew up eating with almost every meal, some sort of legume or bean and black eyed peas was something that commonly was on the dinner table. Pink eye peas are just in the same family. So we’re going to use that; they’re both from Anson Mills.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:04:12] So we want to go ahead and sear the oxtail before we braise it. So we’re going to get it brown on all sides. I’m going to add a little grape seed oil to the pot here. And I already went ahead and salted the oxtail. It’s a pretty important step. It kind of, you know, serves as a marinade. It also helps break down fat a little bit. And it’s going to help us get a nice brown sear on the outside of the oxtail as well.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:04:40] So we’re going to go ahead and sear on all sides.

[00:04:47] [sizzle].

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:04:47] Where’d you grow up?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:04:48] I grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I grew up in a pretty rural area, so I got to explore the woods quite a bit. so that’s kind of nice, and the beach was not too far, so I got to engage in water sports, which was pretty cool as well. I am an only child, so I did not have the benefit of siblings or or the, you know, the headache, I guess, of brothers and sisters. But, you know, so my mom and dad. I certainly have a whole host of aunts and uncles that would come and visit in the summers and I would get spend time with my cousins, which was awesome. So I guess I kind of grew up with them as what would have been, you know, my my brothers. I had a lot of boy cousins. So I was pretty cool.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:05:35] Would you all get together for, like, big meals?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:05:38] Yes. One of the several holidays we got together for that was really important was Thanksgiving. It’s still is quite important. So that’s, I would say, generally the day that everyone gets together and we all get to sit down and share a meal. So it’s pretty great.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:05:56] Do you have the typical kind of like turkey and dressing, all that kind of stuff or something different?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:06:02] I think that as everyone gets older and the opinions grow wider, we are starting to stray from the traditional Thanksgiving. I think even this year we are toying with the idea of my family coming here and eating at the restaurant, which is just very unusual for my family. But typically I think we have the traditional Southern African-American soul food Thanksgiving. We usually do the traditional turkey that’s baked and then we fry a turkey as well, macaroni and cheese, oyster corn, cornbread stuffing is something that we usually do as well. Green beans, there’s usually rice again, because that’s something that we always have. Yams are something that is common as well. There are sweet potato pies. There’s apple pie. There’s quite a bit of food. There’s rolls, usually potato rolls, you name it. I mean, we have it. And there’s lots of food and lots of people to feed.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:07:08] I love it. That sounds great.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:07:12] Have you ever had oxtail before?

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:07:14] No, I haven’t. But people eat it all over the world.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:07:17] Quite a few people come into the restaurant never having eaten oxtail, which I’m always surprised by. I’ve even encountered some of our guests that don’t even know what oxtail is, I guess don’t even think that is obviously the tail of an ox. But yeah, I mean it’s literally that. And also it’s just kind of funny, I think in the culinary world it is certainly picking up steam. And this is something that as a kid I grew up eating. It was of super cheap kind of meat. You certainly won’t find that’s the case any more.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:07:54] Oh, really? Now it’s more expensive.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:07:56] It’s certainly more expensive. And not only that, it’s just a lot more difficult to find. So it’s kind of one of those things that happens when things gain popularity.

[00:08:07] [sizzle].

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:08:07] While this is browning, we can go ahead and create our little sachet that’s going to go into the pot of oxtail in the oven.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:08:18] You have a cheese cloth here.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:08:22] Yeah. Got a carrot. Chop that.

[00:08:23] [chop].

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:08:23] Celery here. A couple bay leaves.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:08:38] Are those fresh bay leaves?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:08:42] Yes, they’re fresh bay leaves. Cinnamon stick.Six juniper berries. And then we’re going to have one the head of garlic.

[00:09:03] [garlic crush].

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:09:03] It’ll all go in there and I like, you know, kind of braised onions, I guess, that have been melted down within the braised meat. So I’m gonna leave the onion out of the sachet and just kind of have that floating with the oxtails. I’m gonna to split an onion. And then this other half an onion is from that onion that’s in our beans. So it’s going to make sure we use that as well. We’ve got everything else in our sachet.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:09:43] Just tying up the cheese cloth.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:09:43] With kitchen twine.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:09:43] And then it’s going to go in the same pot as the oxtail.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:09:49] Right. This is going to go on the same pot as the oxtail. So one thing I remember my mom doing when I was a kid, when she would make this dish is that she would just cut up the vegetables.

[00:10:03] [fade sizzle]

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:10:03] I was kind of a latchkey kid. [My mother] worked for the government. And, you know, I think that she relished the weekends where she could kind of shop on Saturdays and figure out what she wanted to make on Sunday and just cook for us and be in the kitchen all day and kind of slave away for us. And I think that that meant a lot to her. And she certainly was a woman that kind of juggled everything. So, you know, something like her oxtails is something that we appreciate it so much because we knew that, you know, there was a sacrifice in and putting it on the table.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:10:39] So that’s what you want to get as far as browning, golden brown. Pretty much.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:10:45] Yeah.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:10:53] Let’s just take a minute to say how good it smells right now, especially the oxtail. The seared meat combined with the onion that’s bobbing around in a pot of pink eyed peas. I wish she could smell it. I also want to tell you more about Ashleigh’s restaurant. Benne on Eagle. It’s located in a neighborhood in Asheville, North Carolina, called The Block. Historically, the block was a hub of commerce and community for African-Americans, home to black doctors, lawyers, dentists and literary scholars. The neighborhood has gentrified dramatically over the past few decades, but places like Benne on Eagle are working to honor the people who’ve lived and worked here all along. People like Hannan Shabazz, who helped craft the menu and is known as the restaurant’s culinary mentor. Shabazz Soul Food, the restaurant she owned with her husband, was a fixture on The Block. Her apple fritters are still legendary and an essential part of Benne on Eagle’s fine dining menu. Sometimes the restaurant is described as serving Appalachian Soul Food, so I wanted to hear from Ashleigh about how she navigates this idea at her restaurant, Benne on Eagle.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:11:57] So let’s talk a little bit about Benne on Eagle. It’s often described as Appalachian soul food. And I’m wondering what that means to you.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:12:07] Yeah, it is. It is often described as Appalachian soul food. I think just in general for me, kind of being the visionary in the creative behind of a lot of it, it just represents a kind of food of Appalachia and just also food that is cooked by black Americans in this area and just also recognizing where that comes from even and just exploring that diaspora. And I think, you know, even myself, I’ve got a background that extends from the Caribbean to West Africa and, you know, just even relatives that are Geechee and just think that soul food is made up of so many things. So it’s also just the exploration of that as well.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:12:54] Are there any items on the menu where you feel like it really shines through?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:12:59] Yeah. I think the oxtail dish would be one. We serve it on the menu with West African spiced rice, cream peas and the oxtails also red wine braised and there’s sumac onions there. Sumac is something that is commonly foraged in this area. amd I’ve been lucky enough to forage in the Shenandoah on the Appalachian Trail as well. Our rabbit dish, I feel like it’s very expressive of Appalachian, I guess, soul food, if we’re calling it that. But, you know, our rabbit is braised, onion braised rabbit, and it’s served with an apple fritter. It’s something that was commonly made by a Hanan Shabazz when she was a pastry chef in the area that were nestled in this neighborhood called The Block. So, yeah, I think that’s also representative of Appalachian Soul Food.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:13:51] Is there a phrase that you prefer over that one?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:13:57] I don’t know that there’s a phrase that I prefer, but I think just the explanation that we’re just exploring the the diaspora of what soul food is. And even just bringing awareness that black Americans exist in Appalachia and they they have an identity as well and just opening people’s eyes to that.

[00:14:21] The part where we braise. So I have a bottle of wine, we’re gonna use all of that and I have about two cups of oxtail jus. So this is just the liquid basically leftover from a previous batch of oxtail. So I just had the benefit of being able to grab it from the restaurant. We have oxtail on the menu right now. And if this is something that you don’t have, you could just use beefstock. If you’re really in a crunch, you can also use water, which is what my mom did. Yeah. It’s just as good. But yeah, I feel like this just went to a richer, richer flavor. Nothing against the way my mom did it.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:15:02] No, totally. And a lot of people talk about how their mom did it a certain way and they’ve kind of adapted the recipe a little bit. It’s really common.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:15:11] This is the braising part.

[00:15:24] [sizzle]

[00:15:26] [wine glug].

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:15:26] I went ahead and made a pot of Carolina gold rice. I’m going to add some butter to that.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:15:33] Yum.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:15:35] Yeah, we’ve got quite a few rice varieties on the menu right now. The Carolina Gold is one of my favorites. Absolutely.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:15:48] So those are the peas.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:15:49] They look just like black eyed peas, except the eyes are pretty pink.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:15:53] Yeah. And the water’s a little pink, too.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:15:55] Mm hmm. So it’s at a point where we can add the salt. I went ahead and tasted it and the beans are very mashable.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:16:07] Oh, good.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:16:08] Yeah. This is where we add our salt. So you got some nice potlicker there as well. That’s something that I really like in my beans. I think people make the mistake of throwing all the bean water away, but that’s like really know good juicy stuff that you want to keep.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:16:33] Yeah, it’s kind of the best stuff. It’s like the essence of everything you’ve been making. Oh, there is your Carolina gold rice.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:16:46] Got a big vat of butter.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:16:48] Yeah, that looks amazing. Did you bring that from the restaurant.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:16:52] I did. Yeah.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:16:54] Oh, that does look good.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:17:05] Yeah, who doesn’t love butter. Now a bit more salt. A bit of black pepper and then come over, grab our onions.Drop those down there, and if the liquid is not completely covering the oxtails, that’s OK. Because it’s going to produce quite a bit of liquid when all that fat continues to render off. That’s perfectly fine. So we’re gonna get that sachet down in there as well. And then this is where we let it hang out in the oven for quite a bit of time. You’ve got to have some time on your hands for this one. About three hours, it kinda depends on how many oxtails we’ve got. This is about four pounds, three or four pounds. That’s going to take about three hours.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:18:00] You just put a little bit of tinfoil on top and now it’s going in the oven.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:18:05] We worked a little podcast magic with these braised ox tails. Instead of waiting the full three hours, Ashleigh made a batch ahead of time so we could enjoy them right away. We’ll sit down to eat in just a minute and then we’ll dig into a conversation. We’ll talk about why being homesick college ignited her love of food, how her time in Kenya influences her cooking, and why she wants everything she puts on a plate to tell a story. Stay with us. We’ll be back with more in just a minute.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:18:36] Skillet is brought to you by you. You may have noticed there are no advertisements on Skillet. No promo codes or meal kit ads. We rely on listener support. I’m coming to you to ask for your help paying for the ingredients we cook with on the show. We’re looking for listeners who want to be food sponsors. And if you pledge at the twenty dollar level, we’ll read your name during the break. And thank you for making this episode possible. Today’s food sponsor is Lori Theriault. Thanks, Lori, for covering the cost of the ingredients that chef Ashleigh Shanti cooked with on this episode and for being such a great fan. If you want to be next week’s food sponsor, go to www.skilletpodcast.com to donate. And if donating isn’t in your budget this week, you can support the show by writing a review in your podcast up, telling a friend, and sharing on social media. Thanks so much. We couldn’t do it without you. OK, on with the show.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:19:34] Welcome back to Skillet, the podcast where we cook together and listen to each other. Picture this: we’re hanging out at Chef Ashleigh Shanties house. The braised ox sales are smelling delicious and the buttered rice is fluffy. The pink eyed peas are tender. It’s time to eat.

[00:19:51] OK, I’m ready to eat.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:19:56] It actually reminds me so much of brisket like Jewish style brisket where it’s like really low and slow for a long time. But you know what? We we do our brisket in red wine. So that is actually very similar. So it actually has really familiar to me.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:20:18] Oxtail was something I remember not particularly loving as a child, but I just remember, it was something that we had quite a bit and just with a lot of foods that I ate growing up, I found myself craving them, you know, when I went off to college, when I moved away and ox tails are one of those things and I remember not only having kind of a hard time finding it in the stores, but, you know, having no idea how to make this weird looking meat that didn’t look like, you know, chicken or anything else that I cooked, you know, kind of when I was learning how to cook on my own, I guess, as an adult in the home. So, you know, just being in college and wanting to replicate those things and wanting to talk to her and figure out where to get these items and how to cook them, I think that’s when I sort of gained an appreciation for them. It took me kind of being homesick and missing those tastes and that part of home.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:21:10] Yeah, a lot of people say that they go away to college and then they like completely embrace the things that maybe it’s kids, they’re like, oh, that’s nice. But then you want that flavor of home.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:21:20] Exactly. Yeah.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:21:21] Actually, I guess it’s kind of even weird to say this, but I grew up not liking collard greens at all. And I’d probably started liking them when I went away to college. Yeah. Like right after I graduated and yeah. I graduated and just kind of missed home and started craving things like that.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:21:39] So I was reading what Chef Edward Lee said about your oxtail in a recent article that came out and how he grew up eating oxtail in his Korean household. It’s also even in Chinese cooking and Spanish cooking. Do you think that there’s anything universal about oxtails?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:22:01] I do, actually. I when I went back home one summer, I invited my mom to this dinner that a friend of mine was part of. And there was a chef from a restaurant called Alkaline. They sell really great ramen in Virginia Beach. And my mom was incredibly hesitant because she’s not like somebody that’s super enthusiastic about trying things like uni tostadas, and, you know, things like that. So it was kind of one of those weird dinners and highlighted fermentation and things like that. And the chef from Alkaline, he made an oxtail dish and everything else was pretty far out and kind of weird and above her head. But when she had that course, like, she went nuts and she thought I was so good. And I do think that, like, you know, we are this world is filled with so many different cultures. But there’s usually that commonality is that, you know, we have that comfort food that that makes us think of home and oxtail, I know that in Asian cuisine there, that’s something that they see as a comfort food as well. So I do think that there’s that commonality for sure.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:23:16] Yeah. And then there’s a lot of people in America, in the Northeast that have never had oxtail. If you could tell them anything about why they should try it. What how what do you think people should be eating more oxtail?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:23:30] I think that it is certainly an underrated cut of meat. It kind of has everything. It’s, I think, still mildly affordable. You know, it’s got really great fatiness and it’s got really, really great flavor and great marbling. And it’s just an all around good, good meat and it’s great for braising. And yeah, it’s just you can do so many things with it and spice it in so many different ways. So yeah, just tender. Really good, all off the bone sort of thing.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:24:01] Everybody can relate to that.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:24:03] So if you’re into that, I would I would give oxtail to try.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:24:05] To talk a little bit about your culinary journey, when did you first realize that you wanted food to be a career for you?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:24:15] I think that that kind of took a while. Because I always liked to be in the kitchen and always liked to cook. And I liked the idea of working in a kitchen. But did not see it as being career that could be sustainable for myself. But once I got to college and realized that sitting at a desk for hours a day was also not sustainable for me, then I kind of tried to explore the culinary side of things a little more and much to the chagrin of my parents. But, you know, they did support me and they just kind of encouraged me to go to culinary school and not just dive into a restaurant headfirst, which there’s certainly nothing wrong with. I encourage people to do that as well if that’s the trajectory that you choose. But yeah, it was in four-year school when I was getting my business marketing degree, which I mean, I had a great time in college and I’m glad I went and I learned quite a bit. But I just I knew that I wanted to be a chef at that at that time.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:25:16] What kind of sparked your interest in the culinary world? Was there like a dish that you learned how to make in culinary school that made you think, like, I got to do this as my career or was or like a turning point for you there?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:25:30] There wasn’t a particular dish or anything like that. I think it was just that moment where I, you know, experienced a professional restaurant setting and how addicting it was and how adrenaline driven it is. And, you know, it’s certainly not a glamorous job by any means, but I just I remember walking into kind of that first experience like that. I’d worked in quite a few kitchens, kind of like a little family owned restaurants and just walking into my first fine dining professional kitchen and just being in awe of how beautiful everything was now shiny it was and how everything just everyone looked so disciplined, clean, and it just ran like a well oiled machine. And I really liked that and I wanted to be a part of it.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:26:22] Do you feel like you faced obstacles as a woman of color in the kitchen, becoming a chef?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:26:27] Yeah, absolutely. I think any person of color can say that about quite a few creative industries. But yeah, I feel like, as a woman and a person of color, I’ve had experiences where I’ve kind of been looked over and people even are surprised at either how much I’ve done or the skill that I have, because those opportunities just often aren’t there. And you certainly have to fight to to get them or to even find them. So so yeah, it’s certainly something that we are working on as a food industry, but I’m positive that, you know, things will things will get better.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:27:11] And I think as people like you kind of ascend in the chef world, it moves everything along. Do you feel like you’re opening doors for other people who are coming up in the industry?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:27:22] I would certainly hope so. Yeah. I mean, it gives me hope. You know, just even the opportunities that I receive now, just kind of that there are other young boys and girls that look just like me that may get opportunities because they even just saw that it was possible. So, yeah, I would like to say that my own trajectory possibly opens doors for others.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:27:46] So I’ve heard you speak a little bit about the idea of sankofa. Maybe you can explain kind of what that is and what it means to you.

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:27:55] All right. Yeah. So sankofa is part of the Twi language, I believe that’s how you say it, which is one of the one of the most common languages in Ghana. And it just basically is the concept of not forgetting the past as we move forward. The literal translation is go back and get it. And that’s kind of one of the things that I feel like we’re doing at Benne on Eagle. We’re using so many of these old, really great African techniques and culinary traditions, but also incorporating a lot of new things. You know, we use Koji and just kind of do a lot of things that people would think were very nouveau and but still not not forgetting where we are in location and not forgetting, you know, just to pay homage to a lot of the people that have come before us while we look forward.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:28:49] Did you say you spent time in Africa when you graduated?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:28:53] Yeah. When I when I graduated high school, I graduated a little early and spent a gap year in Nairobi, Kenya. So in East Africa. So, yeah, some pretty, pretty cool experience.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:29:05] Do you remember connecting with the food? Was food important in that journey?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:29:08] Yeah, I do remember connecting with the food. It was not a food related trip, but I certainly found myself kind of in the kitchen quite a bit. I learned how to make some pretty cool things and just fell in love with quite a few dishes and food things that I try and replicate now a bit. And yeah, it just it was a really great experience.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:29:29] Do you remember any of those foods in particular?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:29:33] Yeah. Sakuma Weeki was one of the things that I remember. It reminded me of I mean, it’s greens. So it kind of reminded me of collards, a bit like braised collards. Foo Foo was something that was served quite a bit. And I was that was really good. And I know this is not native to Africa, but I do remember quite a bit of avocado served and that was really good. Mandazi was a pastry that we had with our noon tea. That was one of the really awesome memories that I have as well.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:30:11] Are there any memories that you want to instill in the people who come to Benne on Eagle? Any kind of experience that you’re hoping that they’re having with food and memory?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:30:21] Well, the area that Benny on Eagle is nestled in has changed so much and I think, you know, just once you enter our doors, you can kind of see a little glimpse of the past. We have this rendering of what The Block used to look like in, you know, 70s or the 80s. And, you know, we we pay homage to the women that were chefs or business owners in the area by having their portraits on the wall. And just I hope that that that glimpse that they’re able to see kind of just reminds them of what The Block was. And also not only that, but what it can be and the potential that it has and what we’re trying to do and accomplish there.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:06] It’s hard to look into the future, but if you could look into your future, what would you like to see?

Ashleigh Shanti: [00:31:13] I hope that I am even more expressive in the food that I cook. I would like to think that everything that I put on a plate tells a story and that I have a reason for for why I’m cooking the way that I do and what I do. And also hope that, you know, the people that are in the kitchen with me can can feel encouraged and uplifted. And not only that, but that they grow as well. And in that they do far more than what I could ever do in the future. And I just want to be a really great leader. I think that’s what being a good leader is about, is raising up really awesome leaders as well. That’s one that’s one of the things I wanna make sure I’m doing, not just doing great things for food, but people as well.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:32:06] Thanks to chef Ashleigh Shanti from Benne on Eagle. It was so fun to spend the afternoon in her kitchen. I got to meet her dog Roux, who was curled up between us on the couch during the interview.

Roux The Dog [00:32:17] [Bark, bark, bark].

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:32:20] Ashleigh’s dog Roux spells her name R-O-U-X. I thought you culinary nerds might want to know that.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:32:26] Special thanks to our new story editor, C.A. Carlson, and to our digital producer, Rich Orrris, who took some beautiful photos of our afternoon with chef Ashleigh Shanti. You can see them on our website, www.skilletpodcast.com and on our social media at Skilletpodcast, on Facebook and Instagram.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:32:46] If you like the show, we’d love it if you help spread the word. Write a review, tell a friend and share on social media. It really helps people find the show. And don’t forget to hit subscribe in your podcast app so you don’t miss the next episode.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:33:01] Coming up next time on Skillet…

Julia Turshen [00:33:03] I would say my secret in life is that I love writing recipes, but I really very rarely follow them. Like I test them a million times and I’m writing them and developing them. But like right now, I’m not measuring anything and I feel a little bit like a fraud.

[00:33:17] I get real with one of my culinary heroes, cookbook author Julia Turshen, on the next episode of Skillet.