An Interview with Ashton Keefe, Chef + Author of Lemon & Salt: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Culinary Revelry
Our Hatchery family is always growing, thanks to good old-fashioned word of mouth and personal introductions. When one of our makers told us about a friend (a chef friend—aka the best kind) who was putting out a cookbook, we knew we had to learn more. After our brief introduction to Ashton Keefe, we were delighted and honored to receive our very own copy of her cookbook Lemon & Salt: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Culinary Revelry. After flipping through the pages of beautiful photography and approachable, yet decadent recipes, we had to find out all about the gal behind the greatness.
What is your general philosophy when it comes to cooking and eating well?
I’m a firm believer that food is meant to be fun. Why else eat it? Cook it? Celebrate with it? Cooking should be a way to express and share love and happiness with those whom you love and [who] make you happy. Too often people get caught up in the process rather than the result, which is to break bread and be in the company of good people. It’s the thought, experience, and people you share a meal with that make it memorable. [See Ashton’s tips for Culinary Revelry here.]
If you had to eat one meal for breakfast/lunch/dinner every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? Who would cook it?
I’d go for a summer tomato and fresh mozzarella. There’s something about a ripe tomato and a bit of salt that makes it satisfying for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or, farm stand eggs. My mom and [my grandmother] Mimi are the queens of delicious eggs.
What’s your favorite city to eat in?
No brainer—New York!
How do you approach creating a new recipe?
Inspiration comes from all over. [It may come from] a great meal at a restaurant I want to make approachable for a home cook. Maybe an Instagram picture from someone I follow. And as cliché as it sounds, the market. Whatever looks good in the market and requires the least amount of “cooking,” and therefore lends itself to recipes that readers find easy and delicious [is what I’m on the lookout for]. Cooking in season is the number one tip I can give someone.
How do you get in the right headspace to begin writing a recipe for a cookbook?
I’d say about 85% of the book’s recipes were ones I repeatedly got asked to cook again and again, both in classes and for friends and family. I knew without a doubt that they worked, that they were loved and that people would make them again and again.
What is your most-used cookbook (not your own)?
I’m a huge fan of Ina Garten. Her books inspire me to celebrate and cook simple, wonderful, and delicious food. I geek out over April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Greens and Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune. And I love Ad Hoc at Home, a gift from David Mawhinney, the head chef at Haven’s Kitchen.
How did you decide that it was time to write Lemon & Salt? Where did you draw inspiration from?
I had the idea for quite a while. After teaching so many classes, I found that all my students had the same problem: millennial female “foodies” were eating, dining, talking, writing, and photographing—but not cooking—food. Something had to change. All it took was a little nudge to show these fabulous women that cooking at home was as fun and satisfying as dining out.
Who did you look to for the most honest feedback when writing your cookbook?
Colleagues and chef friends. That’s where I strive to learn the most about how to improve and create a better product and recipes in the future. At the end of the day, the book is designed to please the home cook, but I can’t help but want to elevate my skill set by learning and taking notes from my peers and idols.
This or That
Breakfast or dinner?: Lunch, the most undervalued and best meal of the day. Now if only I had time to indulge in a nice lunch every day!
Sweet or savory?: Sweet.
East coast or West coast?: East. I’m an East coast girl with a serious California girl crush, but I’m afraid I’ll always have the heart of an East Coaster.
Morning or evening?: Morning. I’m an early riser, nothing beats being the first up.
Coffee or tea?: Tea. Unless it’s at my favorite breakfast spot, Lafayette in NYC.
Beach or mountains?: Beach.
Cold or hot?: The hotter the better.
Mimosa or bloody mary?: Neither, beer. A nice hoppy IPA.
Want more Ashton Keefe? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and visit her website. Her cookbook, Lemon & Salt: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Culinary Revelry, is available on Amazon.com.