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Davis Journal

Local chef loves making people happy through food

Mar 15, 2024 07:38AM ● By Becky Ginos
BOUNTIFUL—Using a deft hand and amazing knife work, Ashley Kinghorn can break down an octopus with a few cuts. Why would anyone be cutting up an octopus? Kinghorn is the chef at the sushi restaurant, Poki Bowl, and customers ask for it along with salmon and tuna. She can also chop vegetables at lightning speed.

“That’s the most important skill here,” said Kinghorn, who is also the manager. “Anybody can open a bag, rinse it and put it in a pan.”

Poki Bowl is a franchise but the only one in Utah, she said. “When I came in for the interview, they asked me to break down a salmon. They showed me once. It takes practice but the knife becomes like an appendage. I never cut myself – usually.”

They had a slicer machine for vegetables, she said. “It just tears it apart. I asked ‘can I just use a board and knife?’ Initially they were surprised with my knife work. Fish comes fairly clean but sometimes the collar is on it and you have to work around it so you don’t lose product.”
Kinghorn said she has been in the food industry since high school. “I was a server and I fell in love with it. It’s a rough industry but I love making people happy with food.”

She first started in Arkansas and bounced around a little. “My first real kitchen prep was at the U of U sportsplex,” said Kinghorn. “I was able to hone in on my skills there. I worked under Chef Tommy Bordinko for two years in pantry prep.”

About six months in, the baker left and he came to me and asked if I wanted to bake all the treats, she said. “I told him that I don’t know how to bake but I’ll try. I went to the U of U baking school for 18 months and became passionate about baking. It was a good fit for me.”
The downside was college kids only wanted brownies and cookies, not pavlova or eclairs, Kinghorn said. “I realized I’d done what I could there.”

Then COVID happened, she said. “I took a break from the restaurant business. I decided to take dental assistant training but that wasn’t for me. I’d rather feed you than be in your mouth. It’s controlled chaos.”

Kinghorn worked decorating cakes at a Salt Lake bakery for a while and a few other jobs before coming to Poki Bowl. “I worked here in prep and honed in on a few things,” she said. “The owners asked me to be the manager. It would place a lot of demands on me. There’s a plethora of things to do in the restaurant industry and I didn’t want to work 50-60 hours. We worked things out and now I work about 38-40 hours.”

She grew up in the South and learned how to cook from her grandmother. “I almost burned down the house but she was supportive of me experimenting. My favorite food is fried okra,” said Kinghorn. “We don’t have those plants here. But my favorite thing to cook is gumbo. It’s different every time. That’s what I love about it.”

Kinghorn said it’s important to her to have an immaculately clean restaurant. “It’s my job as the chef and in food service to clean. People claim they like to cook but they don’t want to clean. It’s cleaning that opens up the door for culinary skills.”

If there’s a task that needs to be done, Kinghorn said she does it. “I assist with prep and guest work. I love talking to customers and I love food and being in the kitchen. I do it all. It’s exhausting but I genuinely love it. Not everyone can do something they love.”