When I think about Ashleigh, the first word that comes to mind is resilience. Having first met her a few years ago when Veda Romero introduced me to Akasa Community, a non-profit Ashleigh had founded, and Veda was the director for, we shared about the challenging year we both had personally and professionally. Her determination, her decision to choose care one day at a time while never giving up, her daily commitment to herself, and her work has been an example to me.
So often we talk about how the things that can break us make us stronger, and Ashleigh has been a beautiful example of that to me.
An extraordinary food stylist and culinary consultant, Ashleigh has created and worked with some of the best in the LA food industry, and we are so honored to share her interview.
Where are you from? If you’re not from LA, what brought you out here?
I was born and raised in the Northwest corner of NJ - close to the Delaware Water Gap. My parents still live there now, and while I love to go visit my family, there’s something that feels like home for me in California.
I originally moved to Los Angeles to co-found a restaurant called Alma, located in downtown LA and named the Best New Restaurant in the Country by Bon Appetit Magazine. I also co-founded this in tandem with a nonprofit called Akasa that taught cooking classes to low-income youth and families in LA.
That was in 2013 and was the beginning of sort of a crazy few years. I learned so much in owning and operating my own business and nonprofit in a large city. A lot of what I endured during those years - as difficult and challenging as they were - informs the consulting work I do with my clients now, and I’m grateful for the experiences I gained during that time.
What are you working on that you’re excited about?
I started my own consulting business about a year ago, and I’ve sort of found my groove with supporting startups focusing on marketing, strategy and creative direction. Right now, I have three startups that I’m consulting for: a restaurant, a nonprofit and a wellness lounge.
The diversity of the work keeps me curious and excited. Each business is so different from the next and requires a very specific formula. I think the range of work keeps me inspired, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.
What are you currently struggling with?
This past year has been filled with change - a lot of letting go and shedding skins of my past. My dog Sage who was precious to me, passed away unexpectedly almost a year ago. We also made the decision to let go of Akasa - the nonprofit I founded in 2013.
As difficult as these changes have been, they have also taught me so much about myself and about life - the importance of staying open to change and leaning into the transitions. These shifts have allowed me to move deeper into the consulting work that I love.
And letting go of my own nonprofit has given me the space to support others who are operating their own businesses and to think about how I can contribute to their causes. So many creative people in LA and beyond are doing such incredible work. I want to have the capacity to support these people, many of whom have become my good friends.
At this moment, what are you grateful for?
I feel grateful for the simple things in my life, especially now. The social and political climate is often really discouraging. Now more than ever, I feel unbelievably grateful to those in my life who have supported me during difficult times, and I want to support those who are going through a difficult moment however I can.
In my experience, these actions can be subtle ones – maybe going for a walk with a friend who’s having a tough time. Maybe enjoying one of the many beautiful sunsets this city has to offer. Maybe showing up for a cause you believe deeply in. Maybe it's taking a deep breath.
Often, I think we are programmed to believe that feelings of gratitude depend on something material: a house, a car, a lofty vocation. But the older I get, the more I realize I don’t really need much to feel grateful. Perhaps we would all be a bit happier if we took the time to appreciate the simple things (and moments) that populate our lives.
Where or how do you find rest?
Rest is so important to me, especially after having worked in the restaurant industry where workdays are often 12-14 hours.
I appreciate rest more than most things in my life.
For me, rest means clearing the calendar of social obligations and going inward. I often do this before I know what will be a busy week. Work requires a lot of energy, so self-care and rest are key. Rest can translate a few different ways but usually means either a bath in the middle of the day (try it if you haven’t! It’s an absolute luxury), a face mask (nothing fancy – I usually do the 20-minute facemasks they sell at Whole Foods or 365), reading a book with my feet up against the wall (I did that all Labor Day weekend, haha), and meditation.
These practices of rest or wellness often get misconstrued as being expensive, but they don’t have to be! Such rituals can often be free - they simply require us setting aside the time to prioritize them. That’s the hardest part!
If you could give one piece of advice to a room full of people what would it be, and why?
Seek advice from those you trust and listen to your gut. We are tribal beings, and we are not meant to journey this road alone. Therefore, when you are going through a transition, whether it’s a breakup in a relationship, a challenge with a friendship, deciding on a new career path, starting your own business – whatever that transition may be – go to your community and confide in them, whether it's for advice, for guidance or for support.
When you’re a cute grandma at 85, where do you picture yourself and what are you doing?
Haha, I think about this far too often. When I’m old and grey, I hope to have a house out in the desert with enough land to host a lot of guests. I will invite my friends out to the desert for dinner parties, filled with so much love, laughter, and creativity. It will be like a sort of sanctuary. Friends will come out to a quiet place in nature and rejuvenate from the noise and chaos of the city, as much as I love this city.