Kitchen chef Ash Tucker sweats the small stuff

JACKSON, Wyo. — The difference between good food and excellent food is a lot of small things done perfectly.

Ash Tucker learned that lesson from a well-respected chef and mentor early in his career, and it has been his guiding philosophy ever since.

And in The Kitchen, where he is Executive Chef, little things really do make all the difference. In the most literal sense, it’s a small kitchen in a small building, so precision is critical. But attention to detail is more than a practice, Tucker says. It’s the philosophy that drives his entire kitchen. Tucker wants his customers to taste every little detail, because every detail serves a purpose — from the house-smoked sea salt to the fresh fish delivered throughout the week.

Tucker was destined to cook. He considers himself a Northern California native, but grew up gardening, foraging, canning, and pickling in what he calls an “earthy family” in Asheville, North Carolina. He has traveled from kitchen to kitchen, expanding his culinary palate and experimenting with “all these different flavor profiles.”

“I think I owe my career to that, to traveling,” he said. “The diversity as far as different kinds of cuisines and different chefs — that’s how you learn.”

The Kitchen is a small space. Every detail matters. Photo: Buckrail // Nick Sulzer

He landed in Jackson in 2002 and left again in 2013 to recover from a snowboarding injury. On a beach in Florida and kitchens in Costa Rica, Tucker fine-tuned his tropical palate. He learned how to perfectly prepare fresh fish.

He knew he’d make it back to Jackson one day, and when he did last December, he was ready to hit the ground running. Armed with an expanded repertoire, Tucker got straight to work as The Kitchen’s new executive chef.

“My goal is to be super innovative,” Johnson said. “I think it’s working pretty well.”

Tucker calls his food “New American” world cuisine. He is particularly fond of Asian cuisine, and his menu reflects that. His Hamachi Crudo is perhaps The Kitchen’s most popular dish, but there are tastes from many of his travels.

“Modern American encompasses all that,” he said. “It’s a nice fusion.”

There’s also plenty of Wyoming flavor. Tucker values local partnerships and local food. The Kitchen has its own butcher. Tucker knows exactly where every piece of meat and in his kitchen comes from. He works with partners like Vertical Harvest and the Huidekoper Ranch to source local produce, frequents the local Farmer’s Market in the summertime. It’s good for businesses, he said, and it’s great for the community.

“Farmers… see what we’ve done with their product, they taste it, and it blows them away sometimes,” Tucker said. “They put so much time and care and energy into their product, and they like seeing that the chefs put time and energy into it, too.”

In the kitchen, his work is far from done.

“It’s a constant learning process,” he said. He is constantly learning from his staff, his customers, his servers, from Fine Dining owner Gavin Fine. He couldn’t do it without the full support of the people he works with.

“We help each other, push each other,” Tucker said. “Our motivation is to have the most innovative food in town, and we have an atmosphere where I think that’s possible.”

See for yourself. Make a reservation at The Kitchen online, or call 307-734-1633.

A perfect meal awaits. Photo: Buckrail // Nick Sulzer

Sponsored by:

Fine Dining Restaurant Group

Fine Dining Restaurant Group was born in Jackson Hole, Wyoming by leading culinary minds Gavin Fine and Roger Freedman Now encompassing six restaurants, a catering company, specialty grocer/bottle shop, craft sausage company and artisan

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