At Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw and 300 East in Dilworth, Ashley Bivens Boyd’s artistic confections are stirring up the Charlotte dessert scene. Her creations are as picturesque as they are sublime, a tribute to her background in fine arts. The restaurant business is in her blood: as a child, she tagged along with her mom, began hosting and serving as she got older, and started cooking professionally when she was 22. Growing up in the business has certainly helped inform her tastes, but cooking has always been her favorite.
Ashley credits her grandmother with her interest in culinary pursuits. After staying up late and watching cooking shows, they used to make things together, experiences that have become some of her favorite memories. She also studied at the elbow of Joanie Babcock, a chef at 300 East when Ashley was younger, especially noted her flavor combinations and how she created new dishes. Even learning from the best, she considers her culinary education far from over. “I’ve taken a class here and there and that was a great way to fill gaps in my on-the-job education. I am always seeking to learn more though, and love stepping into another kitchen for a night or taking a course.”
I love working with the interesting crowd this industry attracts. I always feel that we’re doing something important as a team, and any part I happen to be playing in that feels worthwhile to me.
Now, Ashley is influencing the next generation and attempting to cultivate a diverse and adventurous palate in her children, something she considers one of her finest achievements. The other occurred this past April, when Ashley collaborated with Chefs Blake Hartwick of Bonterra, Chris Coleman of the Marriott, Paul Verica of Heritage, and Mixologist Bob Peters of the Punch Room to present a dinner at the James Beard House in New York. It was “the most fun day of my life and such an honor,” she says.
She designs her menu around seasonal and local ingredients to make her sumptuous treats, and many local farmers have provided menu inspiration with their ingredients. “Those products are almost always the inspiration behind my desserts – vegetables, fruit, cheeses, nuts, herbs, flowers. I believe in supporting local agriculture because it’s better for our local economy, it’s better from an environmental standpoint, and it’s better for our health. And from a taste and quality standpoint it’s a no brainer,” she explains. With room for about 5 desserts on each menu, she has plenty of space to stretch her creative limits and explore different combinations of flavors and textures. Her favorite dessert to make is definitely ice cream. “I have so much fun creating ice cream and sorbet flavors from anything and everything. And I love seeing the smiles when I serve those.”
There are two menu items to sample at her two locations. “At Heritage, my current favorite is the Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cheesecake with Pretzel Tuiles, Ganache, and an “Extra-Crunchy Peanut Butter” that I make from Bertie County peanut paste, chopped caramelized peanuts and roasted peanut oil. At 300 East, I love the seasonal ice cream sandwich because it makes people so happy. This summer it’s a Peanut Butter & Jelly version with Peanut Butter Cookies & Ice Cream, Berry-Muscadine Jam, and Milk Foam. In the Fall we’ll go back to the Butterscotch Ice Cream with Sorghum Molasses Cookies and Caramelized Peaches.”
For someone who has been around the service industry so long, Ashley is far from burned out. “I love working with the interesting crowd this industry attracts. I always feel we are doing something important as a team and any part I happen to be playing in that feels worthwhile to me.” Luckily for the diners at Heritage and 300 East, the artist-in-residence will be practicing her craft and those delectable desserts will be here to stay.