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Ashley Talley

Ashley is from a small town in southern Virginia where she learned how to cook buttermilk biscuits from her grandmother. Ashley went to Brown for undergrad where she once had limoncello shots with then-mayor Buddy Cianci, who, she is pretty sure, is now in federal prison for mafia shenanigans. After that, she lived in Philadelphia for a while, then in Malaysia with family for several months. Ashley went to UNCW for grad school, where she loved living at the beach, and she goes back there whenever she can. There’s nothing like stopping by the fish market for just-off-the-boat catches. Ashley has been in Charlotte for several years now, and particularly loves her Plaza Midwood neighborhood, Meskerem Ethiopian Cuisine and the Yorkmont Farmers Market on Saturday mornings when it’s buzzing with activity.

What’s your favorite childhood food memory? Canning tomatoes with my mom and grandmother. It was an all-day event.  Now I do it by myself and send her pictures. There’s nothing like hearing that “pop” that lets you know you did it right!

Most exotic food you’ve ever tasted? Durian in Thailand.  Well, I’m not really sure if it counts as eating the fruit when I had to hold my nose the nose whole time, but the smell was enough for me never to need to try it again. Or be in the same room with it.

What’s the food you hated as a kid but love today? Tomatoes. I hated them when I was kid—texture, I guess, because I loved ketchup, of course.  Now, I don’t think there’s much better than a “summer stack”: ripe heirloom tomatoes layered with fresh basil and fresh mozzarella, drizzled with balsamic. Oh man. Is it June yet?

What’s your most memorable meal (good or bad)? When I was in grad school, a chef friend at Portland Grill in Wilmington, NC once did an eight-course tasting menu for me and three girlfriends. It was amazing, from the wild boar and braised rabbit to the wine pairings that came every couple of courses.

Do you garden? I have a small garden in my backyard—tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers and some herbs. I tried black-eyed peas and corn this year to disastrous results. Really, between the heat and the rabbits this past summer, I was lucky to gather enough for a batch of salsa.

Do you compost? I LOVE my compost bin. My boyfriend recently built an elaborate aerating contraption that spins around, and every time I add to it, I think about next year’s garden. I also love having a big bowl by the stove as I cook to hold all the scraps… and I barely have any trash now, between composting and recycling.

Favorite flavor? Lime. Not like sugar-lime-flavored-candy.  Tart, pucker-up-your-lips, fresh lime juice. It’s weird.  Secret least favorite flavor? Chocolate. I know, it’s weird!