This week, Ashleigh Shanti, Chef de Cuisine of Benne on Eagle in Asheville in North Carolina.
Benne on Eagle is located on Eagle Street in Asheville’s historic neighborhood called The Block. Ashleigh describes the food at Benne on Eagle as Appalachian Soul Food, and working closely with Chef John Fleer, who’s best known around Asheville for his acclaimed restaurant Rhubarb and it’s sister cafe bakery The Rhu, the menu at Benne on Eagle pays homage to the rich African American culinary traditions that once thrived in The Block, as well as honoring her own history as a Southern, African American female.
The restaurant opened in late 2018, and it’s captured the attention of numerous media outlets, including a feature for Ashleigh in the New York Times as one of the 16 black chefs changing food in America and most recently becoming a nominee for Bon Appetit’s Hot 10 List for Best New Restaurants of 2019.
Now 29 years old, Ashleigh traveled across the US on a six-month sabbatical before landing in Asheville after being tapped by John Fleer, and as that story in the Times reported, she decided that her next step as a chef needed to fulfill a critical desire “cooking food that celebrated her heritage as a black woman from the South and rebuffed assumptions about what that food could be.”