You may have seen Chef Jon Ashton on many of your favorite news stations and TV shows (The Today Show, The Tonight Show), working alongside star chefs like Martha Stewart and Emeril Legasse, or partnering with your favorite brands like Waring Commercial. We recently spoke to him about his exciting career in the industry – from his early beginnings discovering his culinary passions in England, to his favorite sources of inspiration, to his inspiring video series “Living Proof” that shares an inside look at the lives of some of the incredible chefs working in this industry.
When did you first discover your passion for food and cooking? And how did you turn it into the career you have today?
I first started cooking at the age of eight with my grandmother in Liverpool. She cooked for our neighbors who were lesser fortunate than us. Seeing the smiles on our neighbors’ faces with each warm loaf of bread delivered created an inner passion and made cooking my purpose.
Who or what are your inspirations when it comes to cooking or creating a new dish?
Traveling always inspires me when it comes to cooking as it’s exciting to pick from the gardens of the world to create new dishes or put a modern spin on the classics. I keep everything seasonal and try to work with local farmers for the freshest ingredients.
You’ve recently partnered with Waring Commercial for a video series called “Living Proof” that was created to encourage and inspire chefs and others in the culinary industry. Please tell us a little bit more about this project: What inspired it and how did it come to be? What can viewers expect to see when they watch?
“Living Proof” is a compelling video series about the inspiring human elements of real-life chefs from all walks of life who have overcome a variety of personal or professional difficulties like addiction or homelessness. We also include stories of ordinary chefs doing extraordinary things in their field like changing a school lunch program igniting awareness and change. The inspiration for the series came from identifying the challenges chefs face and supplying stories of perseverance and ultimately positivity.
After having a career as a chef for many years yourself – what would you say is your biggest takeaway from being in the industry?
Respect. If you don’t respect the industry, it will eat you up. Keep in simple. The best dishes are made with simple and seasonal ingredients.
You’ve worked with lots of extremely talented and famous chefs, for example Martha Stewart and Emeril Legasse. Who else would you really love the chance to cook and collaborate with?
When I was younger, working with celebrities may have fed my ego. However, on my journey I’ve learned if you are an authentic soul and you put all of yourself into each dish, it doesn’t matter if you’re serving the queen of England or a famous rock star, your food should stand on its own. To be completely honest, I’m happiest when I’m cooking with my daughter and making family memories.
If you could give a piece of advice to a young person looking to become a chef, what would you tell them?
My advice would be to land a job in a really nice restaurant. Use your ears more than your mouth. Show up on time and be respectful. Learn the ingredients and the technique. The rest will fall in place if you are dedicated and work your way up.
What is one of your all time favorite things to cook or prepare? And why?
I could choose a different favorite dish to make based on the hour of the day you ask. I’m constantly inspired by bold Asian and Indian flavors but then can fall in love with a simply prepared piece of flaky fish with a squeeze of fresh lemon. I never put a recipe in a straitjacket and I almost never make the same recipe twice. I’m always tasking myself to grow. If you don’t constantly reinvent, you become complacent in your work.
Tell us about one of the best meals you’ve ever had.
I’ve been blessed to have many amazing meals in some of the best Michelin starred restaurants and at some of the best mom and pop hole in the walls. Recently, my favorite meal was sitting down with a homeless woman in Birmingham, England and listening to her life story. Food is a universal language and has the ability to bring us all together, which is truly magical.