For our monthly series “Meet The Kitchen Family,” we sat down with Ashley Hook, Sous Chef at The Kitchen Boulder, to get to know him a little bit better. Here’s what he had to say:
Where are you from?
I grew up in Boulder, in Four Mile Canyon, until I was about eight years old. I went to New Vista High School. I‘ve been in Boulder my whole life, born and raised.
How did you become interested in cooking?
My mom is a really good cook, and a master gardner. When I was a child, my mom made a big point of us sitting down together and eating; that aspect has stuck with me, that connection. My first job was at The Boulder Cafe when I was 19 years old, I was a barback and an oyster shucker, I was there for a year. I worked at the 14th Street Grill after that, for about seven years, then Frasca for about three years, and then The Kitchen since 2009.
No culinary school, no formal training?
Has your mother’s green thumb rubbed off on you?
For the past 12 years I haven’t had a space to garden, I’d like to someday. I have an aloe vera plant, it’s huge, that thing’s loving life right now.
What aspects of your job do you find to be the most rewarding?
As a chef, I create something, people enjoy it, there’s an instant gratification. My father is an artist, he takes weeks to paint a painting, but my rewards come more immediately and that feedback keeps me going. I enjoy getting to know people, working with others towards a common goal, facing daily challenges, walking into my refrigerator and asking, “what can I do with this?” The ultimate end is the food, what ends up on the plate, hopefully people will dig it. I take a lot of pride in working with local farmers. We are fortunate to be in Colorado with such great resources available, and so much of that quality comes from a farmer’s expertise.
Do you have a favorite dish, one that you love to prepare?
I think that’s a really unfair question to ask a chef. There’s never a favorite, it’s a creation, it’s evolving. You might be in a moment of having fun with certain aspects, what an ingredient might be, but in the end it evolves into something else, that’s why it’s fun. I’m pretty good at pasta, but I still have a lot to learn. It’s all about learning. Pasta can be very simple, or it can be complex, you can be great at one type and then suck at another, the gamut is large, I like that. It’s sort of simple but at the same time it needs to be done correctly. If you don’t get the first steps right it won’t work out, the little things matter in the end way more than we might think.
— Interview by Veronika Sprinkel www.veronikasprinkel.com