Chef, caterer and culinary instructor Ashley Fahr is living her dreams at Cookdrop Kitchen
By Chase Maser
Cookdrop Kitchen is what every modern kitchen aspires to be: clean, uncluttered and radiating possibility. It’s the kind of place that makes a person want to cook, and founder Ashley Fahr is intent on creating memorable experiences around it.
That could mean a cooking class (she’s running four or five a month) or the personalized pre-prepared meals Cookdrop creates and delivers to its meal subscription clients.
“Commercial kitchens can be so unappealing and industrial, and that’s not what Cookdrop is about. I wanted a location that was attractive and made people feel like they were in their own home,” says Fahr. “In my family it was really important to always have dinner together at 7 p.m. I loved that feeling of closeness, and it definitely translates into what I do now — bringing people together.”
That’s why cooking classes are her favorite part of the business.
“The experience is very family-style, so everyone contributes to the meal,” she says. “Our Northern Italian Pasta Class is a real favorite. When it starts, everyone’s greeted with appetizers and a drink — usually a prosciutto and parmesan snack with wine or a cocktail. After that, an introduction is made of what the night will be like, presenting our guest chefs and teaching assistants, and then people break into pairs to start cooking. … We make pasta from scratch, a homemade Bolognese sauce and an arugula salad topped with parmesan and white beans. For dessert, ricotta cheesecake [pre-baked, but attendees get the recipe]. When everything’s finished, everyone sits down at the table to eat.
It’s a real blast!”
Cookdrop’s classes are catching on, but the meal service is Fahr’s bread-and-butter. A native of Boston who discovered her passion for cooking during a college semester in Paris, she sets her business apart from larger meal delivery services by personalizing recipes to her customers’ palates. Think of her as a personal chef who freelances remotely.
“In the past I worked for places that staffed private chefs and sent them to clients’ houses to prepare meals. But soon I came to find out that a lot of my clients didn’t want me to cook at their homes at all. They only wanted me to drop the food off.”
Fahr ran with the idea and discovered she liked it better, too.
“It allowed me to cook food at my own pace and deliver it to them without any rush or inconvenience. I prepare everything in glass containers that are reheatable, oven-safe and come with instructions, so they can have their meals anytime throughout the week,” she explains.
“There’s a ton of competition in the meal deliver business, but they’re super large-scale and not personalized,” she continues. “With that in mind, you are paying a bit more than a Blue Apron or Munchery, but you’re getting meals tailored to you and your family. If you don’t like cilantro or fennel or don’t want cream or gluten or shellfish, tell me and I can make it to those standards.”
Fahr is a quick study. It wasn’t all that long ago that she couldn’t find her way around a kitchen.
“When I started college, I couldn’t cook a thing — couldn’t even cook an egg,” Fahr laughs. “I had four days left of sophomore year before the summer break, and I remember writing in my journal that I really wanted to learn how to cook, so I went back home for the summer and gave it a try.
“Things were really bad at first. I made raw burgers and served my parents salmon that was cooked for like two minutes, but I loved it. … Junior year I went abroad to Paris, and it changed my life.”
During her semester overseas, Fahr took classes at Le Cordon Bleu, and it cultivated her experience of being in a professional kitchen. The following summer she took an internship at America’s Test Kitchen.
“My degrees ended up being in Science & Technology Studies and French Literature, but going down that career path didn’t work for me,” Fahr says. “I tried tech and PR jobs for a year after finishing school, and I was unhappy. Food had become a big passion of mine, so I applied for a master’s at La Sorbonne in Paris, and I got in. Being in Paris eventually led me to becoming a chef at different restaurants in New York. I worked my way up through the kitchen ranks, but even still, the life of a chef is a tough one, and I was hardly making enough money to support myself.”
Then came a fateful road trip to Los Angeles.
“We just rented a car and drove all the way to the beach in Santa Monica, and I fell in love with it,” says Fahr, smiling at the memory. “Right away, I looked for any job I could find — catering gigs, restaurant work, private events. I found some great opportunities, and now I run my own space. It’s incredible where life can take you once you open up to it.”
Cookdrop Kitchen 1046 Princeton Drive, Marina del Rey (424) 289-8556 cookdropkitchen.com