Ashleigh Shanti is Chef de Cuisine of Benne on Eagle in Asheville, NC. Working closely with five-time James Beard Award finalist Chef John Fleer, Ashleigh pays homage to the rich African-American culinary traditions that once thrived in The Block – the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant – as well as honoring her own history as a Southern, African-American female.
After graduating from Baltimore International College in 2013 with an Associates Degrees in Culinary Arts, Ashleigh embarked upon a variety of culinary experiences, including a position teaching fermentation classes at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans and a stage at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate New York. Homesick for the Southeast, in 2017 Ashleigh moved to Kinston, NC to assume the role of Culinary Assistant for Chef & the Farmer co-owner Vivian Howard.
While each of her kitchen experiences helped hone her technical expertise, Ashleigh struggled to find a cuisine that resonated with her on a personal level. It was this longing that beckoned Ashleigh to Asheville to help Chef Fleer open Benne on Eagle. Here, Ashleigh has found her culinary identity in a kitchen where the food is both meaningful to her and honors her heritage. She is proud to help Chef Fleer build Benne on Eagle’s culinary program from the ground up by following the theme of Sankofa, “go back and get it” in the Twi language: progressing forward and integrating new food techniques and methods, while looking back to history to reclaim lost and forgotten traditions.
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This inspired, friendly and free-spirited food scene tucked in the mountains of Appalachia has been called “Foodtopia,” but the locals just call it home. Plan your trip now.
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