Chef of the Month – Ash Heeger

Ash Heeger is one of the coolest chefs on the Cape Town block. Fearlessly female and sporting more tatts than some blokes we know, this pint-sized chef is making waves and literally going from strength to strength.

Her restaurant ASH is currently (at the time of the interview) in the throes of being remodelled and renamed and the news should be hitting the streets soon about the new name and theme.

We caught up with Ash to find out a bit more about her, her passions and food and of course…what’s the deal with all the tattoos…

Ash, tell us how you wound up in this industry, is it something you have always wanted to do, or was it a happy coincidence?

Honestly, I’ve never even considered following another career path. I was, as I recall the only one of my friends/ peers that knew what I wanted to do from about the age of ten. Of course, when I was ten I had no idea what being a chef entailed, I just knew that it’s what I wanted to do with my life. That has never changed. I guess I just knew…

You have worked overseas, as well as with some amazing local chefs too. How has this sculpted or moulded you in to who you are today?

Each chef or mentor that I have worked with has impacted my life and career in some way. Whether it was moulding me into a young inspired cook, like Luke Dale-Roberts did, or taught me to preserve and step up my cooking skills and refine my palate like Brett Graham, or taught me to become a mentor and teacher myself like Ashley Palmer-Watts.

I have been extremely lucky to learn from chefs who are at the top of their game and have been for some time.

All the ink! Tell us about some of your favourite tattoo’s and why they are so special to you.

Oh gosh…I have so many now that picking a favourite is almost impossible! Honestly, it changes all the time. My two most special tattoos are probably of my dogs. One of them has sadly passed away and the other is still very much alive.

Otherwise I suppose you could say I’m quite spontaneous and unsentimental about what I’ve put on my body, if I think it’s beautiful then I’ll probably get it tattooed.

Favourite dish on the menu and why?

Something that ASH will always be remembered for are The Scrumpets. A little bit like a nugget. We take a less desired part of the animal, like head, tails neck and trotters, slow smoked them for hours on end and then pull the meat from the bones to form the nugget.

We then cover the little guys in breadcrumbs and deep fry until golden. These are served with whatever Homemade Ketchup we are feeling at the moment.

If people were coming to eat with you for the first time – what could they expect?

Well, interestingly enough we’ve just closed our doors last month and are reopening in Spring with a completely new menu and service style. We’ve decided to do this because we want to constantly evolve and improve our offering and space.

Guests can expect loads of innovation and playfulness in the menu without feeling challenged. Great service and a team that makes each guest feel right at home. But for now, it’s a surprise.

If you would have dinner with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be and why?

Tough one! Most probably Anthony Bourdain. His recent passing has hit me quite hard. He inspired me with his writing and I based a lot of my early career off his ethos and outlook to the industry. I’d love to share a meal with him.

Bucket list travel destination and why?

I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot of the world, that’s the beauty of cooking. Places I have yet to visit, but absolutely must are: Peru, Mexico, Hawaii and Japan. No specific order, of course!

What do you do on your day off, so where would we likely find you?

You’ll either find me outdoors, running in the mountains or near the sea or you can find me in the kitchen!
I really love cooking at home, which a lot of people find strange because it’s all I ever do. I love cooking for my loved ones and doing something different to what we serve at the restaurant.

As for the running, I have to exercise to eat as much as I do! it’s a very good way to clear the mind and I also have a French Bulldog (Mash) and a Border Collie (Noodle) who need have a decent run around every day.

What do you cook at home for yourself?

Absolutely everything! When I get home at night it’s normally something easy and light. I like to make large amounts of chicken/ beef broth and then have containers handy in the freezer to whip out to make a quick noodle soup or pho.

If I’ve had a particularly hard day at work then I just go ahead and treat myself to something guilty, like a grilled cheese sandwich…the kind that is fried in butter!

On my day off I normally do something like a full roast with all the trimmings or some homemade pasta with an interesting sauce.

An unpretentious but exceptional dining experience is on the cards all you foodies, where delightful meals from a novel menu will be presented with finesse, and ingredients will be locally, ethically and sustainably sourced – in keeping with Ash’s personal ideals of minimal-intervention food.

We will share more on her new restaurant soon on our social media accounts, as well as on our website.

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