FIRST THOUGHT: Try to Swallow This One
The other day, a group of friends and I splurged, ordering almost every dessert on the restaurant menu: a strawberry tart with shaved pistachio, a lavender cookie, a cinnamon terrine, a rosemary-lemon oat crumble. Needless to say, they weren’t quite the peanut-butter fudge pie my friends and I are accustomed to bringing to potlucks, but dang, it was fun. Did I feel like I was gnawing on a candle occasionally? Yes. Did I wish I had said pie in front of me, instead? Possibly. It felt like an accomplishment, though, to try something new. Today, do the same.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 21 Percent
It seems like everyone has a story about their grandmother or mother making the best fried chicken or the best chili or the best such-and-such. That’s why it’s pretty baffling that only 21 percent of women are head chefs in the United States. A more startling stat that leaves us feeling salty: Zero women are included on the World’s 50 Best Chefs list, zero on their own or without a hubby, dad or boss to share the title with.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Ashley Clay, CEO at Chef Ashley Inc.
What do you get when you mix a little bit of Atlanta, a sprinkle of personality and a healthy serving of skills in the kitchen? Today’s Woman to Watch, Ashley Clay. She has been called the city’s first celebrity chef, working with noteworthy guys like Ludacris and Floyd Mayweather.
Raised in Atlanta, Ashley and her savory and sweet recipes are about as well known as her clientele. She’s known for the thousands of ways she can make salmon, and this powerhouse makes a mean French toast. (Hint: Sir Elton John approves.)
NBA superstar Charles Barkley was Ashley’s first client, and just like pretty much every industry, Ashley’s career blossomed due to Charles’ referrals. That word-of-mouth growth has resulted in what Ashley calls “making the exceptional accessible to everyone.”
Part of taking her business to the next level involved expanding upon her culinary expertise to an entire hospitality operation. Oftentimes, hosting events can be very segmented: You call the caterer, you hire a décor company, you find a space. Ashley noticed this disjointed way of entertaining and decided to simplify the process. From floral design to invitations to entertainment, Ashley’s biz takes care of it all.
This skilled chef is her own boss, finding out-of-the-box ways to share her passion. For a university psychology course, Ashley was asked to share her scrumptious banana-pudding recipe, and about how food and memory go hand in hand. She uses digital media in innovative ways to connect, eliciting social-media questions for her #AskAshleyShow on Facebook.
Ashley offers small-to-large catering services in the Atlanta area, with all food made fresh the day of the delivery. One of the dishes that keeps ATL folks coming back for more is her gooey Southern-style, three-cheese mac. We’re talking colby jack and cheddar cheese that sticks to your ribs—and your memory.
Ashley feels most successful when clients and invitees talk about an experience for weeks. Her method is all about creating a party that considers who the guests will be and what they’ll be excited about. After all, Grandma Betty is quite a different audience than Kanye West, right?
Follow Chef Ashley on Instagram at @AshleyClayExperience.
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QUITE THE QUOTE
Trailblazer Margaret Thatcher shared a thought about politics that can also be applied to the world of culinary arts:
“In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman.”