At Blue Jay Bistro, the female-led restaurant in Littleton, North Carolina, Chef Ashleigh Fleming leads the charge, crafting the menu as an ode to her past experience and childhood, while celebrating North Carolina through locally and regionally sourced ingredients and surrounding Southern influence.
The restaurant’s pastry chef Brittany Elmore recently created and introduced the Pumpkin Churro to the menu – a fun, seasonal spin on the classic Spanish pastry.
“I think the key to our menu development is our culinary team. We have a small core group in the kitchen that has a really diverse professional background with very different flavor profile preferences and past experiences that we are pulling from,” Fleming says. “We all work together - so someone comes up with an idea and then usually a couple of us tag team it, pass it back and forth with different components and plating, and come up with something we are proud of. Every dish is kind of collaborative.”
Elmore continues to find inspiration within the hometown she grew up in – taking classically southern desserts she was raised with and recreating them utilizing simple and delicious ingredients in an elevated, fun new way. For her, being a chef is everything they told you not to do growing up: playing with your food to create something even better.
As the pastry chef of Blue Jay Bistro and Daphne’s Coffee Shop, both located in Littleton, Elmore has been baking since she was old enough to do it on her own. Having fallen in love with pastry at an early age (influenced by her self-proclaimed sweet tooth), Elmore spent her childhood growing up in Lake Gaston, North Carolina, watching baking shows and dreaming of being the next Cake Boss.
“I very much agree with Chef Ashleigh, the key to our menu is all of us in the kitchen working together throwing out ideas of different things we’ve learned or love to make to help the menu items go above and beyond expectations,” Elmore says. “Chef Ashleigh told me when I started working on the dessert menu to look at things that had special meaning to me and work from there to create things with passion. Growing up in the Littleton area, I’ve learned the tastes of people around me and going to Johnson & Wales in Miami I learned how to take the taste of people I’ve grown up with and make them amazing.”
At 18, Elmore made the move to Miami, Florida, to pursue culinary school at Johnson & Wales University. Graduating with an AS in Baking & Pastry Arts and a BS in Food Service Management, Elmore began her career with an internship at a small cake shop in Pembroke Pines, FL. From there she built up her experience working in different hotels and restaurants around Miami, Tampa, and back in Lake Gaston where she found her way to the team at Blue Jay.
“There may only be five of us back there but we’re having fun and we’re excited about food and cooking,” Fleming says. “Plus, there’s no wrong answer - if somebody has an idea, let’s make it! Not everything makes the menu and not everything is great, but if we aren’t experimenting, we aren’t growing. It helps that our community and farmers are all really excited too.”