Ashley Christensen

Poole's Diner

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 dcor from the building's original tenantone 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 + Table, located just down the block from Beasley's and Chuck's, opened in the fall of 2013. The spacious caf 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 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.
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 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 Apptit, 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 2014, Ashley was awarded the James Beard Award for "Best Chef: Southeast." Her first cookbook will be released by Ten Speed Press in 2016.

Visit Ashley behind the stoves at Poole's or follow her on Twitter @Poolesdiner.