Chew on This – Ashleigh Easterling

Gaston Alive! would like to introduce a local up-and-coming Chef, who is passionate about eating healthy and supporting local farmers and businesses. She can tell you just how unhealthy your pantry is and how to cook without the calories while savoring the flavors! Ashleigh Easterling is the writer of “Chew On This” – a natural health food column, and you will have the opportunity to read more from Ashleigh in upcoming issues. Gaston Alive! Magazine had the pleasure of spending some time with the bubbly 25 year old Gastonia native who has moved to busy uptown Charlotte for opportunities that enhance her lifestyle and business endeavors. Tune in to WBTV Tuesday, March 18 at 12 noon for Ashleigh’s live cooking demo.

GA!: Have you always eaten farm fresh food?
Growing up I spent the summers drinking raw milk from a cow on my grandparents’ family organic farm. This is a very vivid memory of mine. The term organic was not used back then because all farms were “organic”. Watching my grandmother churn her own butter, can her own food and prepare food in its most simple form was a very inspirational thing for me, even though I would not be aware of this until eighteen years later.

GA!: What made you get into cooking healthy?
As I got older, I was diagnosed with numerous illnesses and prescribed many different medications. I truly believe that these medications caused a ripple effect and contributed to my sickness. Despite the illnesses, I graduated from Johnson & Wales in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and landed a position in Marketing for a Fortune 500 healthcare system known as Health Management Associates. I felt good about myself and my “big girl” job, but something was still missing for me. I decided that I wanted to pursue my love for cooking and take on a new challenge. I wanted to make a life change by going back to the basics and changing my diet to all natural farm raised food. In just three short years I not only lost 40 pounds and got in shape, but I was healthy and all of my medical conditions soon diminished.

GA!: What made you go back to school at Johnson & Wales University?
My lifestyle change influenced my decision to go back to Johnson & Wales and pursue a degree that would provide me with the education I needed to help pursue my dream of healthy living, and open doors for me to open my own organic, North Carolina farm supportive cafe. I graduate in May 2014 with my Bachelor’s in Food and Beverage Restaurant Management. I am in the planning phases to open a small to-go all natural breakfast and lunch kiosk.

GA!: Have you worked in a restaurant before?
I have gained valuable cooking experience through Johnson & Wales, Sullivan’s Steakhouse and cooking at home as a hobby.

GA!: Do you hold any culinary certifications?
Yes. I am certified through GreenChefs/BlueOcean, which is a course designed to teach chefs the importance of promoting sustainable seafood. I am also certified in ServeSafe Sanitation and ServeSafe Alcohol through the National Restaurant Association.

GA!: What interested you in starting your own column, “Chew on This”?
Two things come to mind – I am very proud to be from North Carolina and I take my healthy lifestyle very seriously. It is important that we take care of our bodies by eating healthy and it is very important that we take care of our communities by supporting small businesses and local farms. I am writing this column to share my experiences with weight loss, getting healthy and cooking wonderful tasting healthy dishes for the readers. I look forward to providing the readers with my experiences and advice on maintaining good health while creating delicious, health-benefitting dishes.

We will have much more from Ashleigh in issues to come. You can also contact her at a.easterling88@gmail.com or follow her on Instagram Chef_Easterling.