The Edit

Chef Ashley James on living the Californian dream

The Beverly Hills Hotel
Meet the international jet-setting chef making his mark at the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel. Drawing on inspiration from around the world, he’s set on playing his part in the Pink Palace’s exceptional legacy.

Ashley James is a supremely talented yet humble man, who loves nothing more than creating delicious food and embracing fresh challenges. Over the past 30 years, he’s worked in prestigious kitchens in England, France, Germany, Spain, Singapore, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and the US. He’s cooked in several Michelin-starred restaurants, including the famed Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, appeared in numerous cookbooks, and hosted in his own award-winning TV series showcasing some of the world’s most famous chefs. Now, Ashley has settled in sunny California for what he believes will be the lasting legacy of his prolific career.

“I became a chef purely because I love food, now my motivation comes from a genuine desire to please others. There’s no better feeling than creating something that makes people happy. Having said that, it took me many years to fully appreciate how serving the right food can have a big emotional impact. Be it memories certain dishes evoke, a sense of tradition, the joy of surprise or just pure pleasure – food really does have a power all of its own.”

As culinary director of The Beverly Hills Hotel, Ashley oversees all the restaurants, banqueting events and in-room dining. Classically trained in England and France, he’s spent his career absorbing and reinterpreting all the foodie experiences he’s enjoyed along the way. He’s a great believer in dishes being infused with people’s stories and now he’s telling his own.

“I was born in the UK but I’ve always loved to travel. As a kid we had summer holidays in Spain, Italy and France that really impacted my senses. My most vivid childhood memory is watching local fishermen returning with the day’s catch and seeing it flame-grilled and devoured alongside the busy harbour. Back home, I started baking from around the age of seven – I can still recall the thrill of licking the cake batter bowl clean. By age 12, I was hosting dinner parties for my parents and their friends, conjuring up theatrical plates of beef wellington and baked Alaska – I was hooked.”

Ashley delights in the magic of getting it right for every diner. He cringes when recalling working as a young chef in Mexico and being horrified when someone asked for french fries to accompany their meal. That day something switched inside him and forced him to put his ego to one side.

It’s not about what I want, it’s about delighting others. We all have opportunities to do this – a simple cup of coffee served just the way someone likes it shows you’ve listened. It’s about respect and treating others the way you wish to be treated.

Ashley James

Having previously worked in Beverly Hills for nine years, this is a chef who really understands local tastes. He’s seen how the LA dining scene has shifted from the desire to eat at the latest restaurant and sit next to a celebrity, to focusing on the food itself. He’s aware that expectations continue to grow, but having observed others’ skills, tastes and creativity, he’s assured in his own style of cooking and loves making local ingredients and artisans shine.

The Beverly Hills Hotel has really got under his skin. There’s an appreciation of the crucial role his team has in retaining its famous Hollywood vibe, but he isn’t afraid to bring his own personality to the table. Ashley is fascinated by the hotel’s rich history, and feels blessed to play a part in its ongoing story.

“I’ve travelled enough to know that this is where I want to stay and continue an extraordinary legacy. I’m putting my lifetime’s passion and respect for food to maximum effect at The Beverly Hills Hotel. My mission is clear – never underestimate what a particular dish means to someone, respect the authenticity of each dish, let the star ingredient shine, remember teamwork is everything, be ruthless about quality, and keep the classics but be bold and introduce new classics.”

A great example of this can be found in the Polo Lounge, where he’s introduced beer battered fish and chips in homage to his British background. Building on the restaurant’s much-loved Californian panzanella, packed with local tomatoes, he’s created seasonal variations that highlight kale and dried cherries in the winter and heirloom melon with cucumber in the spring. Another of his firm favourites is crispy fillet of branzino, served with a tomato sauce, capers, lemon juice and parsley.

Catering for large events is a challenge I adore. It’s never just a crowd, every person and every event is unique. Canapés are a great opportunity for storytelling and having a bit of fun – just when people think they have seen it all, we give them something different. Interactive cooking stations act as interesting talking points too, like showcasing a wow-factor whole tuna and transforming it into different dishes. We’re also known for our mini croque madame and bite-size lobster melts.

Diners can rest assured that the famous McCarthy salad isn’t going anywhere, it remains one of the hotel’s most popular dishes. Chef prefers his with simply a generous squeeze of fresh lemon and some good quality oil olive, believing the ingredients speak for themselves. He’s also looking to add a very different style of McCarthy salad to the menu – something to watch out for in the future.

When visiting The Beverly Hills Hotel be sure to look out for chef Ashley James. He will be more than happy to regale you with further foodie tales and restaurant recommendations.