Chef Ashley Christensen working on first book

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Ashley Christensen pre-ordered a copy of Smoke & Pickles, a book by her friend Edward Lee, so she could be among the first to read it.

“You’re immediately engaged based on what a great storyteller he is,” Christensen says of Lee, who she met a few years ago through the Southern Foodways Alliance. “He’s a brilliant writer. His food is beautiful, thoughtful and bold. Those are things that, in combination, create something very special.”

Christensen said she was struck by Lee’s honesty in sharing so many personal stories and how they shaped him as a chef. “As chefs and restaurateurs, you are always on display,” says Christensen, who has welcomed hundreds of strangers to her Raleigh home for fundraising events. “I believe the book will make a lot of people think differently about how they approach the process, about not keeping the public and readers at arm’s length.”

Christensen intends to use a similar approach with her first book. She hopes to sign with an agent this week, a crucial step in getting the project to a top publishing house.

“Ed's and my books will be very different, but I want to share stories as he does to show how my thought process works,” she says. “I learned to cook by throwing dinner parties. It will be based on how that can explode into other things we can make.”

Christensen has been working hard to document the recipes that dazzle diners at Poole’s, Beasley’s Chicken+Honey and Chuck’s. Some already have been featured in food magazines.

“Like Ed, my goal will not people telling people how to measure,” she says. “I want to teach them how to think about cooking, the history of how food got here and why the relationship between chefs, farmers and artisan providers is so important.”

Lee, a three-time runner-up for James Beard honors will be celebrated Wednesday evening by Chef Colin Bedford with a special dinner at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro. The event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $85, which includes dinner, a beer tasting, gratuity and a signed copy of Smoke & Pickles.

Jill Warren Lucas is a freelance food writer who blogs at Eating My Words. Follow her at @jwlucasnc.

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