Craft beer was a totally unfamiliar and almost non-existent thing, so brewing beer out in Stanford and hauling it to a farmer’s market in Woodstock every single Saturday was a bit of a crazy vibe. Yes, there was a time when the words ‘craft’ and ‘beer’ weren’t commonly found in the same phrase in SA. We used to have to refer to ourselves as a ‘micro-brewed’ beer for clarity’s sake.
And we got weird looks. But not from Ash. She’d come visit us weekend after weekend at our dodgy little stand for a pre or post shift beer, holding down a hectic job (but really kicking-ass) at the world-renowned Test Kitchen restaurant with Luke Dale-Roberts.
Neither of us were household names but we shared a sense of purpose, committing ourselves to our causes in a no holds barred kinda way. Because we had to. Ash knew and understood the value of ingredients, processes, time, and materials – because like food, beer is alive – and you don’t wanna rush the process. She just got it.
Ash was born in the Transkei in a liberal community with a strong sense freedom, family and nature. A self-proclaimed introvert, she discovered cooking early on and knew by the age of 9 she wanted to be chef. Her life is peppered with career milestones including work experience at La Colombe and the Test Kitchen. Inspired to broaden her horizons, she travelled to the UK where she worked at a top restaurant whose aggressive approach “broke her down and built her up as they wanted her to be” – but not how she wanted to be. Think loads of swearing, shouting, and bravado. So when given the opportunity to work alongside Heston Blumenthal, she took it – and came into her own.
A road trip ‘eating her way’ through America later, she returned to Cape Town in 2016 to open the highly anticipated Ash restaurant – where she cooked for a sold-out crowd night after night with her charcoal food concept. Ash then went on to open a place of her own called Riverine Rabbit. The restaurant, inspired by both an endangered species and her strong ties with the Karoo, focuses on sustainability, seasonal produce, and a drive to support community-driven projects.