Our South

Black Food Through My Lens

By Ashleigh Shanti (Author)


Pub Date 10/15/2024

ISBN 9781454949121

Format Hardcover



Our South

Black Food Through My Lens

by Ashleigh Shanti

Raised in Appalachia, native daughter Ashleigh Shanti, a queer Black woman and acclaimed chef, knows Southern Black cooking means more than we’ve come to believe. While hot buttered cast-iron-pan cornbread and crunchy, juicy, lard-fried chicken have their roles to play, they are far from the entire story.

The key to understanding how Black influence has defined foodways and cultures in the South is to explore its microregions, each with its own distinct flora and fauna, dialects, traditions, and dishes. In Our South, Ashleigh takes you through the five regions closest to her heart, beginning with a glimpse of mountain life in the Backcountry through recipes like Fish Camp Hush Puppies and quail spiked with black pepper. A swing over to the coastal Lowcountry fills your plate with smoky grilled oysters and benne seed–topped crab toasts. Seasonal produce shines in the Midlands, where bountiful stone fruits enrich dishes from shortcakes to salads. Lowlands nods to the diversity of food cultures that meet in the region, where Ashleigh grew up eating noodle dishes like Virginia yock alongside Southern classics like Brunswick stew. The book culminates in Homeland, with foods that share what it’s like to cook—and live—as a Black Southern chef now.

Long before competing on Top Chef and earning a coveted James Beard Award Rising Star Chef nomination for her cooking at Asheville, North Carolina’s Benne on Eagle, Ashleigh shelled boiled peanuts and coveted the jars of pickles in her great-aunt Hattie Mae’s larder. In high school, she pored over food and travel magazines and marveled at how her mother never failed to put a hot meal on the table, whether instant grits or slowly cooked celebration dishes. After spending a gap year in Nairobi and graduating from culinary school, Ashleigh entered the restaurant world, bartending, catering, teaching, and staging. She rekindled her connection to the cuisine of her roots before opening her own restaurant, Good Hot Fish, named for a phrase her ancestors would shout to draw in customers.

Ashleigh’s culinary journey culminates in Our South, where each dish speaks deeply to its origins, revealing the true story of Black food in the region and the many pleasures of the South you can savor at home, wherever that may be.


What a beautiful Black story told through food. What I love most about Our South is that I see and hear parts of my story in Ashleigh’s. As we continue to remember, explore, discuss, and celebrate Black food, many of the recipes from this book will be at the table. —Mashama Bailey, James Beard Award-winning chef and author of Black, White, and The Grey

Ashleigh Shanti stakes a bold claim in the title and follows through deliciously. Our South is an opinionated look at Southern food through lens of the Black experience. Shanti is a chef on a mission, and I have no doubt that by the time you have perused the pages, delighted in the tales told, cooked the recipes, and enjoyed the tasty dishes, she will have convinced you that her South—our South—is a place to be acknowledged and savored. —Dr. Jessica B. Harris, culinary historian, professor, lecturer, and author of High on the Hog

Ashleigh Shanti is one of my favorite chefs in America. I’m so grateful she and I were introduced a few years ago, and I have been waiting not so patiently for the arrival of this cookbook. I can now say, after reading it cover to cover, that I am completely floored—not only by the incredibly thoughtful variety of recipes Ashleigh shares (accompanied by the most alluring photos, which make me want to abandon everything and just cook all the dishes straight through), but also by the detailed and intimate glimpse into the beautiful regions and stories that shaped her love and almost genius understanding of food. I was so inspired as I read each page—and make no mistake, these pages aren’t to be rushed! There is so much to take in, and I always chose a comfy, peaceful spot when I sat down to read. But most important, I learned so much—not just about cooking techniques or ingredients that I have never tried, but also about the history and origin of the foods that have defined Ashleigh’s experience. Her very layered, textured, and authentic explanation of Southern food has made me rethink my previous perceptions and definitions. This cookbook will stay in my kitchen for a long, long time, and I can’t wait to share it with so many people that I love.—Ree Drummond, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks

In 2019, Ashleigh Shanti was arguably the most written-about young chef in America. Heading up the kitchen at the brand new Benne on Eagle in what had once been the bustling Black economic district of Asheville, North Carolina, Ashleigh became the voice of Affrilachian foodways, a role amplified by time spent in one grandmother’s Blue Ridge gardens and kitchen. But like Walt Whitman, Ashleigh, “contains multitudes,” and the poetry of the food she put on the table was also rooted in Gullah tradition, a Tidewater childhood, a sojourn in West Africa, an apprenticeship in Baltimore, and her singular creative life. It’s time now for Ashleigh to take up the story in her own words, to craft this richer, deeper, wider “Song of Myself.” She does so here in a profound and elegant memoir garnished with some of the most delicious and extraordinary recipes you will be blessed to cook and eat. —Ronni Lundy, James Beard Award-winning author of Victuals

Our South is destined to be a new American classic—a deliciously compelling cookbook that not only provides an expansive perspective on Southern cooking, but a road map for exploring the vast nuances of Black culinary experience. Ashleigh’s recipes and stories are deeply personal, while her mastery of and reverence for the ingredients and foodways of her heritage are on full and vibrant display. With her debut cookbook, she both honors the generations of cooks before her and confidently leads us all into the kitchen, invigorated and inspired to get cooking.—Gail Simmons, food expert, TV host, and author of Bringing It Home

I call the South our richest culinary region in the US, for all the reasons Ashleigh Shanti documents here. Her vibrant recipes and stories shine overdue recognition on Black foodways from Appalachia to the Sea Islands and the countless love-filled kitchens in between.—Osayi Endolyn, James Beard Award–winning food and culture writer


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Ashleigh Shanti has been working in restaurants since she was a teenager. She graduated from culinary school at Baltimore International College in 2013 and went on to stage at Minibar in Washington, D.C., and act as culinary assistant for Vivian Howard before becoming chef de cuisine at John Fleer’s Benne on Eagle in Asheville, North Carolina. Today, she is the chef-owner of Good Hot Fish in the same city. She was named an Eater Young Gun in 2019 and was a finalist for the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award in 2020. She also competed in season 19 of Bravo’s Top Chef. Raised from Virginia Beach, Virginia, she now lives in Asheville with her wife, Meaghan, and their dog, Roux.

Title Details

Pages 320 pages, 150 color photos

Trim 8 x 10 x 0 Inches

Territories World

Category Cookbooks, Food & Drink

Carton Quantity 10