People

Why the young chef behind The Turnhouse Grille chose Charlotte as a career destination

Photo by Jessica Bentley
Photo by Jessica Bentley

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and dining with several chefs, restaurant owners and local proprietors throughout Charlotte. I absolutely love learning about their background, passions and what made them gravitate towards working in the food and beverage industry. Every meal is an adventure and I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve enjoyed thus far. In today’s post, we’re chatting with Executive Chef Aeisha Davis, 30, from The Turnhouse Grille.

Aeisha Davis
Aeisha Davis

Where are you originally from and how did you end up in Charlotte?

“I was born and raised in DC,” Davis said. “I moved to Charlotte in 2005 to attend Johnson & Wales and even studied abroad in Thailand and Singapore for a couple of months in 2009.”

Davis graduated with an Associates in Culinary Arts in 2007 and earned her Bachelor’s in Food Service Management in 2009. After returning from her tour overseas, she decided to return to Virginia to help take care of her mother, who was battling breast cancer at the time. After a full recovery, Davis moved back to Charlotte in 2016

“When life had other plans, I told myself I would eventually move back when I had an opportunity,” Davis said. “I wanted to be part of Charlotte’s growth, alongside its up and coming food scene. I truly love this city.”

What was your favorite part of studying abroad?

“I learned a lot about Asian cuisine (Cantonese, Perikan, Thai, Chinese); my favorite was using the mortar and pestle while making Thai chili sauces and condiments,” Davis raved.

These techniques are highlighted in several specials she runs weekly. As for her regular menu, this trip inspired her Bao Steam Buns ($12).

bao buns
Bao Steam Buns

Is there a particular reason you became a chef?

“I initially started cooking, in general, to impress my grandmother,” Davis said. “She was an incredible cook. When I would sit down and imagine what career I would have as an adult, I wanted to do something that made me happy. Cooking for others has always made me very happy. Even today, I have the same passion and joy when cooking as I did while I would sneak into our kitchen at home when I was 11-years-old.”

Pickle’s Montecristo Sandwich

How did you end up working with The Turnhouse Grille?

“When I decided to come back to Charlotte, I began to apply at different restaurants,” Davis said. “In particular, I really wanted to work for Myers Park Country Club so I could study under Chef Jason Hall (who is a certified master chef).”

Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right and Hall was not able to offer her a position at that time. However, a few months later he called her with an opportunity that she might be interested in and introduced her to Andy Pressley. The three of them met at Turnhouse’s future home (it was still Tiki Hideaway at this time) and upon leaving the meeting, she already knew she was going to take the job.

“Andy called all my references within 15 minutes after our meeting; the man wastes no time. He even asked to speak with one of my parents,” Davis laughed.

There was a lot of work to be done, and Davis personally helped scrub each nook and cranny of the kitchen, put in new equipment and assisted with revamping the front and back of house.

What’s your inspiration behind your menu?

“Andy had a vision, but he didn’t know how to bring it to life,” Davis said. “That’s where I stepped in. One of his requests was a Salmon BLT ($14.50), which has proven to be very popular. A few of our items even came from customer requests, including the Grilled Steak Salad ($14) and Short-Rib Grilled Cheese ($12). I like to give the people what they want.”

Salmon BLT
Salmon BLT

What’s your favorite dish on the menu?

“I’m really proud of my Duck Confit ($26),” Davis noted. “The first time I made it, it didn’t really turn out the way I had imagined. I kept working on it though, and after a week or so, I was able to perfect the recipe and offer what is on our menu today. It really is delicious.”

Duck Confit
Duck Confit

There’s an eclectic mix on the menu, including seafood, burgers, comfort classics and sides. The sides were so popular that they added a “pick three for $15” because more often than not, they would have customers come in and order a variety of sides as their meal.

Turnhouse Grille is located at 1600 E. Woodlawn Road (under Jason’s Deli). They’re open every day for lunch and dinner and offer an extensive brunch each weekend. If you’d like more information, make sure to check out their website, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

Chefs & Restaurateurs: If you enjoyed this interview with Chef Aeisha Davis and are interested in your own establishment being featured, shoot me an email (sliceofjessblog@gmail.com) and let’s chat! 

Photos: Jessica Bentley / Foodesign Associates

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