Happy + Hale X Chef Ashley Christensen Present


benefitting NextStep Raleigh


arugula + shredded kale, charred squash, roasted tomatoes, marinated peas, smoked mozzarella, baked sopressata, tossed in a tomato and oregano vinaigrette, topped with toasted seeds and basil aioli 



Since making Raleigh her home, Ashley Christensen has sought to foster community through food, philanthropy and the stimulation of the city’s downtown neighborhood.

Ashley began cooking while in college, throwing dinner parties for her friends and family. These intimate gatherings helped her recognize her passion for cooking and sharing food, and ultimately led to her first professional cooking job at the age of 21. Upon taking the position, she knew she had found her life’s work.

In 2014, Ashley was awarded the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast,” and in 2018 she was a finalist in the “Outstanding Chef” category. Ashley was named Chef of the Year by Eater.com in 2017. She is the author of the cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, which was published by Ten Speed Press in fall 2016 and named one of the top cookbooks of the fall by the New York Times.

Ashley is currently nominated once again for a James Beard award in the “Outstanding Chef” category and will be attending the awards gala on Monday, May 6th. Ashley has chosen NextStep Raleigh as the contribution partner for this collaboration. “The greatest thing about the success of the restaurants is that it allows us to be part of the things we believe in.” - Ashley Christensen

Follow Ashley on Twitter or Instagram.


The acclaimed chef of Poole’s Diner and other downtown Raleigh hot spots is at work on a pizzeria. Poole’side Pies, named because it will open in the space next to Poole’s Diner on South McDowell Street, is already the most anticipated restaurant coming in 2019, especially since it was first announced in 2015.

“Historically, my process for opening a new restaurant starts with the location first, concept second. When the building became available, I was so excited. It’s such a cool building and part of the same history as Poole’s, and I felt it was very important to protect it. Once we were able to secure it, pizza popped into my head as a great fit almost immediately. I also love that pizza is a very approachable, comfortable style of food, and it felt fitting to have that next to Poole’s, which is our take on another approachable, comfortable style of food (diner food).”

“Additionally, I’m always eager to create restaurants that fill a void in our community, and a few years ago there wasn’t much pizza around downtown. That’s already changing, and there are some great new pizza-focused restaurants in Raleigh, which is so exciting. I think our city has room (and desire) for all of it, and we’re excited to be part of the growing pizza community here.”

Follow Poole’side on Facebook and Instagram.

Article via News & Observer: Read more here.


Michael Thor at Whiskey Kitchen.  Jennifer Robertson

Michael Thor at Whiskey Kitchen. Jennifer Robertson

ABOUT NextStep Raleigh

On November 20, 2015, five minutes from his home in Raleigh, North Carolina, a car merged into Michael Thor, a local chef and restaurateur,  while he was on his motorcycle, sending him head first into a utility pole. He suffered a multitude of injuries, including six broken ribs, a completely shattered right elbow, a collapsed lung and a fractured spine at the C2 level causing an incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI). He was paralyzed from the neck down.  Although he didn’t require any spinal surgery, the fracture and subsequent bruising of the spinal cord caused a life-changing amount of damage. 

For nearly 3 years following his collision Michael made significant progress through intensive therapy at the Shepard Center in Atlanta, considered one of the top spinal acute care and rehab facilities in the United States. While the progress Mike made at the Shepherd Center is amazing, as the owner of a popular new restaurant in Raleigh it was essential for him to come back home. To bring Michael home, yet keep him in aggressive activity-based training is what started the idea of opening a NextStep Fitness paralysis recovery center in Raleigh. This rehab center in Raleigh will allow Michael and the many other paralyzed individuals in the area to benefit from aggressive activity-based therapy and the creation of a community to provide social outlets and activities with a holistic approach to recovery. Read Michael’s full story here.

Poole’side Salad: The making of

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