MORE THAN JUST GREAT FOOD

 
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/ harvesting History /

Benne’s Story

 
 

From the rich history of the surrounding community’s culture, Benne on Eagle exists to highlight and honor the African-American culinary traditions that have thrived in our neighborhood, The Block, for decades.  Working alongside Culinary Mentor Hanan Shabazz, and Chef de Cuisine Ashleigh Shanti, Executive Chef John Fleer pays homage to the far-reaching impact of African-American cooks’ contributions to Appalachian food throughout the centuries, and has built a team of many who have called The Block their home or workplace for generations.

 
 
 
Born in in St. Mary’s, GA and raised in Virginia Beach, VA, Ashleigh’s heritage has roots across the Southeast. Her happiest days as a young girl were Sundays spent in the kitchen with her family; friends would stop by to visit, eventually prepare themselves a plate, and stay for hours. These moments engrained in Ashleigh the power of food and how drastically a meal could impact a person's mood. When her parents insisted she find a job at age 16, Ashleigh chose one with long hours and grueling tasks – a kitchen – in the hopes that they would balk. And so it was this first job, chosen out of rebellion, where Ashleigh unexpectedly solidified her future career path.  After graduating from Baltimore International College in 2013 with an Associates Degrees in Culinary Arts, Ashleigh embarked upon a variety of culinary experiences, including a position teaching fermentation classes at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans and a  stage  at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate New York. Homesick for the Southeast, in 2017 Ashleigh moved to Kinston, NC to assume the role of Culinary Assistant for Chef & the Farmer co-owner Vivian Howard. Here, she learned the importance of establishing a culinary identity and discovered the impact of telling a story through a plate of food.  While each of her kitchen experiences helped hone her technical expertise, Ashleigh struggled to find a cuisine that resonated with her on a personal level. It was this longing that beckoned Ashleigh to Asheville in Fall 2018 to help Chef Fleer open Benne on Eagle. Here, Ashleigh has found her culinary identity in a kitchen where the food is both meaningful to her and honors her heritage. She is proud to help Chef Fleer build Benne on Eagle’s culinary program from the ground up by following the theme  of Sankofa ,   “go back and get it” in the Twi language: progressing forward and integrating new food techniques and methods, while looking back to history to reclaim lost and forgotten traditions.

Ashleigh Shanti

Chef de cuisine

Born in in St. Mary’s, GA and raised in Virginia Beach, VA, Ashleigh’s heritage has roots across the Southeast.  Her happiest days as a young girl were Sundays spent in the kitchen with her family; friends would stop by to visit, eventually prepare themselves a plate, and stay for hours. These moments engrained in Ashleigh the power of food and how drastically a meal could impact a person's mood.  When her parents insisted she find a job at age 16, Ashleigh chose one with long hours and grueling tasks – a kitchen – in the hopes that they would balk. And so it was this first job, chosen out of rebellion, where Ashleigh unexpectedly solidified her future career path.

After graduating from Baltimore International College in 2013 with an Associates Degrees in Culinary Arts, Ashleigh embarked upon a variety of culinary experiences, including a position teaching fermentation classes at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans and a stage at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate New York.  Homesick for the Southeast, in 2017 Ashleigh moved to Kinston, NC to assume the role of Culinary Assistant for Chef & the Farmer co-owner Vivian Howard.  Here, she learned the importance of establishing a culinary identity and discovered the impact of telling a story through a plate of food.

While each of her kitchen experiences helped hone her technical expertise, Ashleigh struggled to find a cuisine that resonated with her on a personal level. It was this longing that beckoned Ashleigh to Asheville in Fall 2018 to help Chef Fleer open Benne on Eagle.  Here, Ashleigh has found her culinary identity in a kitchen where the food is both meaningful to her and honors her heritage. She is proud to help Chef Fleer build Benne on Eagle’s culinary program from the ground up by following the theme of Sankofa, “go back and get it,” in the Twi language: progressing forward and integrating new food techniques and methods, while looking back to history to reclaim lost and forgotten traditions. 

 

Hanan Shabazz

Culinary Mentor

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John Fleer

Executive Chef - Owner

Executive Chef-Owner John Fleer also owns and operates Asheville’s popular locally-sourced eatery Rhubarb and sister concept, café-bakery-pantry The Rhu. Prior to opening Rhubarb and The Rhu, Fleer stood at the helm of Blackberry Farm’s kitchen as the Executive Chef for nearly 15 years. No matter where Chef Fleer casts his influence, his ability to transform local ingredients into vibrant world-class dishes, influenced by surrounding cultural history, is apparent.

 
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/ AN ODE TO the block  /

A legacy of soul

 
 

Beyond what goes down in the kitchen, Benne on Eagle’s interior design is extracted from the embodiment of soul food itself: comfort, rusticity, and traditions of the handmade. Central to the heart of Benne on Eagle, are the community leaders who have shaped and influenced the neighborhood for decades. Mary Jo Johnson, Erlean McQueen, Frances Hutchinson, and Hanan Shabazz; our “Legends,” each have a voice and hand in the origins and operations of the restaurant, and are represented by illustrated portraits created by Asheville-based artist Joseph Pearson. Central to the bar is Pearson’s mural of The Block, shown above. The mural is an ode to the scores of African-American businesses that once thrived in this neighborhood, and their historical relevance and impact on the city as a whole.

Benne on Eagle offers an open kitchen environment and chef’s counter seating for six. At the center of our 60-seat dining room, booths allow for more intimate seating alongside the private dining area, and our outdoor fireside patio accommodates cozy al fresco dining for up to 22 guests.