Since making Raleigh her home, Ashley Christensen has sought to foster community through food, philanthropy and the stimulation of the city’s downtown neighborhood.
Ashley began cooking while in college, throwing dinner parties for her friends and family. These intimate gatherings helped her recognize her passion for cooking and sharing food, and ultimately led to her first professional cooking job at the age of 21. Upon taking the position, she knew she had found her life’s work.
After working in some of the Triangle’s top kitchens, Ashley opened Poole’s Diner in 2007, which takes its name and décor from the building’s original tenant—one of downtown Raleigh’s first restaurants. The shotgun space offers an evolving chalkboard menu of comfort-food classics, re-imagined through a philosophy of locally grown, seasonal ingredients and French-influenced technique.
In 2011, Ashley opened three new ventures, all housed in a corner building once occupied by a Piggly Wiggly. Beasley’s Chicken + Honey is an ode to fried chicken and classic Southern sides; Chuck’s offers burgers and frites with signature updates; and Fox Liquor Bar, housed in the building’s basement, features a menu of more than 50 craft cocktails, as well as beer, wine and bar snacks.
Joule Coffee, which opened in the summer of 2013, is Ashley’s latest venture. The spacious café features an extensive coffee menu that highlights the beans of Durham-based Counter Culture in carefully prepared espresso drinks and pour-overs. Joule also offers a casual all-day food menu and a full-service bar.
In 2014, Ashley’s team will introduce three new projects: Death & Taxes, a restaurant celebrating wood-fire cooking with Southern ingredients; Bridge Club, a private event space and cooking classroom; and Aux, a commissary kitchen that will service all seven restaurant properties.
When she’s not in the kitchen, Ashley focuses her time on a number of local and regional charities. She is a board member of the Frankie Lemmon foundation and a co-chair of its annual fundraising event, Triangle Wine Experience. She also serves on the board of Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. She is an active member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and founded the biannual event, Stir the Pot, in which she hosts visiting chefs in Raleigh to raise funds for the SFA’s documentary initiatives.
Ashley’s work has gained national attention from such publications as Bon Appétit, Gourmet, The New York Times, Southern Living and Garden & Gun. She has appeared on Food Network’s popular series Iron Chef America and MSNBC’s Your Business. In 2013, Ashley was a James Beard Award finalist for “Best Chef: Southeast.”
Visit Ashley behind the stoves at Poole’s or follow her on Twitter.