5 Minutes with Chef Ash Heeger

Words: Jess Spiro

Ash Heeger is something of a culinary wunderkind. After making her way to the top of the restaurant food chain she moved to London to tackle two 3 Michelin-starred restaurants there. She has just moved back to Cape Town and opened the doors to her first restaurant, ASH, off Bree Street.

What is your earliest food memory that you think inspired you towards this career?

Ash: I think there were a number of high end meals that I enjoyed when I was younger because my parents were always quite into eating good food. I think for me, it was a series of small moments – the perfect crème brûlée, a delicious ice cream, a great roast, things like that.

You are cooking some of the best food in Cape Town at the moment. What has been your journey to get to this point in your career?

Ash: I went to culinary school in Cape Town, before working under Luke Dale-Roberts. I worked for Luke for about 3 years, before moving to London where I worked under Brett Graham at The Ledbury and then Ashley Palmer-Watts at Dinner by Heston. These great mentors, partnered with hard work, got to me to the point where I felt I could open my own restaurant. In June of this year, I opened the doors to my first restaurant – ASH.

Has there been a defining moment in your career which made you realise that this is exactly what you are meant to be doing?

Ash: I think I always knew that this is what I was meant to be doing, but I have a lot of moments now when I’m reminded that it is exactly where I’m meant to be.

How would you define your culinary style?

Ash: Constantly evolving. I think I always strived to cook the food that the chef I was working for wanted and now suddenly I’m cooking the food I want, which is very different and much harder. I always try to evolve and adapt constantly, and, hopefully, to get better and better.

What is the best career advice you have ever been given? Who gave it to you?

Ash: I think it must have been from Luke (Dale-Roberts). He wasn’t the only person to give me advice but he was certainly one of the first and his words have stuck with me. He said to show up early, leave late, taste everything, trust no one, attack each task with a new hunger, never work for the position you have, work for the position you want. And just work hard.

If you had all the time and money in the world, what would be your ultimate food day? What would you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Ash: I’m not much of a breakfast person, but I’d have a hot smoked trout bagel from The Shed in Notting Hill. Lunch would be barbecue at Franklin BBQ in Austin, Texas. Dinner, I think, would be a plate of poutine in Vancouver, can’t beat it.

Most memorable meal?

Ash: The Walrus and The Carpenter in Seattle, they do incredible seafood and oysters but there was this so-simple-it’s-stupid tomato and tonnato sauce dish that just blew my mind.

Top of your restaurant bucket list?

Ash: Faviken (Sweden)

Favourite way to end a busy day?

Ash: Whiskey, preferably Scotch.

Want to read more about badass women in Cape Town kitchens? Click HERE.

Can’t get enough of Ash? Read more about her restaurant here as well as a review.

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