The Research Triangle Park

Chef Ashley Christensen of @poolesdiner brings home the Beard

By Subscriber May 09, 2014

On Monday night the Triangle let out a loud, “Hooray!” as Chef Ashley Christensen won the James Beard Award for best chef Southeast. It was the first win for the Raleigh culinary queen, the first win for any chef from Raleigh ever for that matter, and a huge feather in the hat for a region that has been steadily gaining traction in the cut throat world of food.

Christensen’s win closes the third point of Triangle chefs to garner the coveted award. Lantern chef Andrea Reusing and Ben Barker of the former Magnolia Grill both have best chef Southeast awards, and Karen Barker holds a national award for outstanding pastry chef, giving the Triangle one massive medallion to wear.

Upon returning to the Triangle, Christensen announced on her Twitter account (@poolesdiner) that she would be cooking Thursday night at Poole’s. Talk about keeping it real.

The chef’s Twitter account has been something wonderful to watch since Monday’s win. There have been multiple interactions with local well wishers, interactions with the delicious grilled cheese food truck American Meltdown, and even a call from Christensen for help.

“Hey…anyone in the triangle have some liquid nitrogen I could borrow 2 blender-mill some heirloom corn? Need it for our @lacocinasf event.”

That small ask for some liquid nitrogen received some great responses from a combination of people you would only find in this area: a foodie, a food truck and a scientist.

This micro version of collaboration is what we’re hoping to someday offer in real life through our redevelopment of the Research Triangle Park. We want to offer a place where James Beard Award winners from across the state can come and work with scientists to create the next great innovations in food.

Why can’t these award winners collaborate with one another on a monster of a restaurant in the heart of RTP’s redevelopment? Or, perhaps, maybe it’s something far more innovative than that. Have an idea? Share it with us. If things keep going like they are, we’ll have more winners from across North Carolina to add to the list (here’s to next year, Katie Button and Vivian Howard).

Right now no one really knows what the RTP redevelopment will look like. As of last week, our design team was 67% of the way there. We do know there will be restaurants. There will be labs. There will be places for all kinds of people to collaborate. Beyond that, the world is our perfectly steamed oyster.