James Beard award winner Gerard Craft of Niche Food Group (Sardella, Brasserie by Niche, Pastaria, Taste by Niche and Porano Pasta) announced the appointment of Ashley Shelton, executive chef of Pastaria and 2017 James Beard Rising Star semifinalist, as Sardella’s new executive chef. The 27-year-old will continue to serve as the leader of the Pastaria kitchen as well. In the dual executive chef position, Shelton will split her time between the neighboring restaurants, working alongside Chef Craft to exemplify Sardella’s vision as a fun, seasonal restaurant with a nod to Italy.
Chef Craft says, “She is an amazing leader and hungry to keep learning. She’s going to kill it.” Shelton echoes her excitement for the new challenge. “The new role at Sardella allows me to examine my culinary skills in a completely new way while leveraging the management style that I’ve developed at Pastaria.”
Her new role at Sardella allows Chef Shelton to not only express her own creativity, but celebrate that of the extended chef team. “I’m excited to push myself in a new way, but Sardella already breeds creativity. The whole team is extremely talented so I want everyone in the kitchen to have a piece of the menu. At Pastaria, the element of fun is always present so I’ll translate that to Sardella. We can be serious about we’re doing without taking ourselves too seriously.”
Chef Shelton shares Chef Craft’s passion for Italian cuisine, and she has the education to back it up. After attending The Culinary Institute of America, she earned a Masters in Italian Cuisine from the Apicius International Hospitality Institute in Florence, Italy. “Gerard and I sat down to discuss the philosophy of Sardella, and I agree with his vision 100 percent.”
She elaborates, “I actually interviewed with Chef Craft for the Pastaria job while studying in Italy. He was there on a research trip for Pastaria, and it seemed serendipitous to return to St. Louis to work for the group.” After starting as a line cook, she’s worked her way up to be executive chef of the popular casual Italian restaurant and now, neighboring six-month old Sardella.