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.
In the spring of 2015, AC Restaurants introduced Death & Taxes, a restaurant celebrating wood-fire cooking with Southern ingredients, and Bridge Club, a private events loft and cooking classroom. Death & Taxes was a 2016 James Beard Award finalist for Best New Restaurant, and Food & Wine listed it as one the Best New Restaurants of the Year.
When she’s not in the kitchen, Ashley focuses her time on a number of local and regional charities. She has served as a board member of the Frankie Lemmon foundation and is a co-chair of its annual fundraising event, Triangle Wine Experience. She has also served 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, Wall Street Journal, and Garden & Gun. She has appeared on Food Network’s popular series Iron Chef America and MSNBC’s Your Business.
In 2014, Ashley was awarded the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast,” and in 2019 she was awarded the James Beard Award in the “Outstanding Chef” category. Ashley was named Chef of the Year by Eater.com in 2017. She is the author of the cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, which was published by Ten Speed Press in fall 2016 and named one of the top cookbooks of the fall by the New York Times.