Executive Chef & Managing Director
Ashleigh Fleming is the Executive Chef and Managing Director of Blue Jay Bistro in Littleton, NC. Here, she pays homage to her current home of North Carolina and her Texas roots with a seasonally driven menu that celebrates the area’s local bounty.
Raised in Houston, TX, Fleming grew up in kitchens. Whether it was the restaurants her parents owned and managed or her grandmother’s home, she experienced the thrill of the culinary industry first-hand during the early stages of her life, long before it became her calling. By the time Fleming was 18 years old, she was managing a restaurant. While at first the restaurant jobs were a means to pay for her enrollment at The Art Institute of Houston for graphic design studies, she quickly realized her true calling was hospitality. She continued to gain restaurant experience in Houston before making it official by applying to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
After graduating from the CIA in 2009 with both Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management degrees, Fleming began her hospitality career in country clubs. During this time, Fleming cooked at several well-regarded establishments, including the River Oaks Country Club and The Briar Club in Texas, the Congressional Country Club in Maryland, the Army Navy Country Club in Virginia, and then three years as the Executive Chef of The Carolina Club at UNC in Chapel Hill. Eager to find a space that allowed for more creativity and a chance to focus heavily on seasonal ingredients, she set her sights on independent restaurants. In 2019, Fleming made a name for herself as the opening chef of a restaurant in Apex, NC, where she worked closely with local growers and purveyors to ensure the restaurant’s successful opening debut.
Just as Fleming started to feel burnt out from the hospitality industry, she met seasoned entrepreneurs Deb and Ed Fitts of Littleton, NC, who planned to open a fine dining restaurant right on the small town’s main street as part of a larger town revitalization project. Fleming knew that if she continued her career as a chef, significant changes would be necessary to keep the job sustainable. The Fittses promised her flexibility and responsibility, allowing her a chance to cultivate a restaurant environment that would be welcoming for all. With this new relationship, her past experiences, and guidance from her mentor, Certified Master Chef Ken Arnone, Fleming knew it was time to take complete creative autonomy and share her passion for food with the world.
At Blue Jay Bistro, Fleming’s style combines the flavors and traditions of Texas, her family’s heritage, and the Southeast with North Carolina ingredients. In addition to overseeing the culinary operations for Blue Jay Bistro, Fleming also manages its next-door neighbor Daphne’s Coffee Shop, and is involved in other Littleton revitalization projects. Fleming’s first loves outside of the restaurant are her dog and two cats. She is an avid shoe collector, continues to draw, and is always up for a good beer or hot tea and a conversation on both.