Ashley Christensen

F&W Star Chef

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Restaurants: Poole’s, Chuck’s, Beasley’s, Fox Liquor Bar (Raleigh, NC)

Experience: Enoteca Vin (Raleigh, NC)

What was the first dish you ever cooked by yourself?
I used to make the beignets from the Café Du Monde box kit when I would come home from grade school. I wasn't supposed to use the stove while my parents were at work, and especially not for deep-fat frying. I thought it was so cool, partially because of the thrill of getting away with it, and partially because beignets are delicious.

What dish should a neophyte cook master?
I think beginner cooks benefit from studying vinaigrette. Emulsion is an important thing.

What’s your favorite value ingredient?
Oyster mushrooms. They’re accessible and affordable. I like them sautéed with asparagus, deglazed with sherry, polished with a little butter and served over toast with a poached egg.

What’s your current food obsession?
Cooking outside with hardwood coals that I make in the burn barrel my uncle welded for me. It’s great for whole fish and meats, and for roasting newly dug potatoes.

What supermarket ingredient do you love?
The Kumato tomato is a really great tomato during the months that home-grown tomatoes aren’t available. You can find it at most grocery stores around the country, year-round. It's similar to the Black Prince heirloom variety.

What’s your favorite best-bang-for-the-buck food city?
I love Nashville! Stay at the Hermitage Hotel, and be sure to hit the Oak Bar for cocktails. Hit City House and sit at the pizza bar and watch those guys work the wood-fire oven. It’s like ballet. Go see Pat Martin for a whole-hog barbecue sandwich. Go to Mas Tacos Por Favor for chilaquiles and tacos. If Otaku South is hosting one of its famous ramen pop-ups, don't miss it! If you make it to Rolf and Daughters, the pasta with heritage pork ragout is a game changer, and you shouldn't be ashamed to order it twice.