Long Story Short
I’m Ashlee—a recipe developer, freelance food writer, and full-on food geek.
My roots are in Southwest Kansas, but Denver has been home since I moved to study culinary arts, nutrition, and food research & development. Since then, I’ve worked in test kitchens (including a stint in Boston at the one-and-only America’s Test Kitchen), done menu and product innovation for national companies, and worked odd jobs like selling sausages across the country and teaching local kombucha classes.
These days, I’m doing freelance food projects including writing, recipe creation, and anything else cooking-related. For more about the work I’m into, see the bottom of this post.
I also try to balance work with the other things I love: my partner and our dog, our wonderful family and friends, hosting themed dinner parties, reading, listening to all types of podcasts, cozy video games, farmers’ markets, traveling, and dining out.
Short Story Long
Yes, I’m a food geek—but more specifically, I’m a recipe geek. I believe that preparing and eating delicious food should be approachable to everyone, regardless of skill level or socioeconomic status. I believe great recipes and food writing can build confidence and foster curiosity in the kitchen. With my work, I hope to advocate that cooking is a lot of things—scientific, cultural, historical, technological, and sustaining—but it isn’t magic. I eschew diet trends, pretentious recipes, and inaccessible ingredients. Everybody deserves to eat—and to eat well.
My roots are in Southwestern Kansas. My family raises grass-fed beef there, in an area that is predominately German and Holdeman Mennonite. My extended family is Mennonite, too (of the Holdeman variety). While I wasn’t raised directly in the faith, both of my parents did and it had a tremendous impact on how I grew up. Of course, it also influenced how I ate. Our family gatherings, school lunches, and local cafes were filled with dishes that Mennonites had picked up and adapted during their migrations across Eastern Europe. The unique blend of Midwestern American, Dutch, German, Ukrainian, and Russian cuisines resulted in some of my favorite foods: peppernuts (anise cookies), bierocks (beef and cabbage-stuffed bread buns), and cabbage borscht (no beets involved). I think it’s why I love cooking—and eating—simply. Don’t get me wrong! It’s a blast to flex culinary creativity and forge new techniques… But give me freshly baked bread and homemade sandhill plum jam, and I’m the happiest girl in the world.
I moved to Denver to attend Johnson & Wales University, where I earned a B.S. in Culinary Nutrition in 2017. My program included an associate’s in Culinary Arts, as well as a formal concentration in Product Research & Development. My studies focused on food science and dietetics but also included organic chemistry, microbiology, health-focused menu creation, and restaurant management (what a combo!). While at JWU, I was honored to receive the Emeril Lagasse Scholarship, which I accepted from Chef Lagasse himself at the flagship campus in Providence.
Whenever I could, I also enrolled in classes like global media and principles of graphic design. With my passion for writing and sharing knowledge, I built a second (informal) concentration in communications.
In 2016, I began working at the Savory Spice Test Kitchen. There, I developed nearly 80 original recipes and adapted countless customer submissions. Operating as part of the marketing department, I coordinated in-house photography, styled for hundreds of shots, and even photographed a few. I used my education in product development to manage and create a line of meal-specific, consumer-packaged spice & recipe kits called Spice ‘n Easy’s. I had my hands in every step of the process, from the ideation of unique recipe concepts to launch in nearly 30 locations across the country (and a popular eCommerce site).
As a huge America’s Test Kitchen fan, I had the exciting opportunity to intern there during the winter of 2018-2019. I worked closely with the teams that create ATK’s thoughtful cookbooks as well as the test cooks and editors in charge of every food geek’s fave magazine: Cook’s Illustrated. I mise en placed, maintained the kitchen spaces, and performed recipe tests on a daily basis. I also worked on the set of the Emmy Award-nominated Cook’s Country television show during the filming of its 12th season, setting food and props for the scenes. As the final capstone to the internship, my fellow interns and I were invited to develop a muffin recipe and write an article in the style of Cook’s Illustrated—you can check out mine here.
In 2019, I began working in the culinary center at the Snooze A.M. Eatery headquarters. Throughout my time there, I developed, tested, and rolled out national menus, recipe optimizations, and regional pilots. I took on a sous chef support role in restaurants during the peak of pandemic shutdowns, then came back to the test kitchen at the beginning of 2021 as the R&D Culinary Coordinator. I either created or modernized much of the culinary training for 50+ national restaurants, and helped launched a virtual concept called BodEGGa. As we navigated supply chain issues and worked tirelessly toward consistent excellency, I maintained a mission to provide the most accessible recipes and training materials possible to employees across the country. I championed Spanish recipe translations and was a proud member of Snooze’s DEIB Committee.
What I’m Up To Now
I freelance for Serious Eats, contribute regularly to Westword magazine, and cook picture-perfect food for a food photographer a few times a week. I’m always looking for new work that sparks my interest, especially if it involves recipes. If you want to collaborate with me, here is a non-comprehensive list of projects I’d love to be involved with:
- Recipe development, testing, and editing
- Freelance food writing
- Food photography chef
- Basic recipe photography and food styling
Interested? Get in touch with me.