One thing driving the success of our newest location in Hershey, Pennsylvania has been the culinary leadership provided by Head Chef Ben Ash. Ben has continued to refine his skills over the eighteen years that have passed since his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Bouncing from Nantucket to Philadelphia and eventually into Iron Hill as part of our Lancaster team in 2017, Ben immediately embraced the “food-forward brewery culture” that lives inside our walls.
Ben is the creative force behind Hershey’s Chef Table execution and is making plans to start exploring beer dinners and other special event menus in the near future. We had a chance to catch up with him and ask a few questions about his approach and influences in the cooking process…
What made you want to be a chef?
At 14, I started working as a dishwasher for a small restaurant. I was hooked immediately, started reading cookbooks, and climbing the kitchen ladder. I loved it all, the pace, the energy, seeing and tasting food daily that was new to me. I’ve always felt more comfortable in a kitchen than most anywhere else.
What’s your favorite ingredient to work with?
Salt. It enhances the flavor of anything it touches. I love different salts for brines, cures, and finishing dishes. When I first started cooking I’d finish everything with salt and pepper because almost every recipe says to. The day a chef taught me how to really taste before, during and after salting a dish was lifechanging.
If you weren’t cooking, what would you do for a living?
Professional trail runner. If anyone wants to sponsor a middle aged, middle of the pack runner let me know. Just kidding, I’m doing what I was meant to do.
Describe dining at Iron Hill in five words….
Spirited, bustling, culinarily driven beertopia
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your cooking?
Greg Gable, who I worked for at Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia and Lancaster’s Restaurant at Donecker’s in the early 2000’s was my early culinary mentor. He taught me a strong foundation of French-American cuisine and how to utilize Central PA’s agricultural bounty. He had me braising rabbits and sauteeing chanterelles when I was barely old enough to vote.
What sets Iron Hill apart from other competitive restaurants?
At Iron Hill we excel at preparing elevated brewery cuisine to pair with our fantastic craft beer. Our restaurants have similar menus so guests can expect consistent high quality food at all of our locations. Each store also has their own weekly chefs table menu to showcase their team’s culinary creativity.
What’s in your refrigerator at home?
Lots of veggies, some charcuterie, wine, beer and way too many condiments.
What is the most overrated trend?
Pumpkin everything in the fall has got to go…sorry Tara (my wife)
What’s a perfect meal?
Almost any meal can be perfect when you have time to linger over it with great friends, conversation, and some award-winning Iron Hill adult beverages.
Note: Portions of this blog appear in Susquehanna Style Magazine.
With 16 locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and South Carolina, there's an Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant near you. Each brewery/restaurant has their own craft kitchen and scratch brewery, allowing individual chefs and brewers the creativity to pair the freshest ingredients with the highest quality grains and hops. Monthly releases vary by location, so scout our beers on tap and visit us soon.