29-year-old Dayton-native chef: ‘What an epic ride this has been!’

Dayton-area native and chef Ashley Nickell wants to remind her friends and followers of one thing: Even Jennifer Hudson came in 7th on American Idol.

Nickell, who we told you about last month was cooking to stay alive on this year's Hell's Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay, made it to the top three out of 18 contestants before finally being eliminated last night, April 22.

Nickell, 29, lived in Germantown and attended Valley View schools until she moved to Florida to join her father when she was 10. Her mother, Beverly Lewis-Mann, and many other relatives live in the Germantown area, and Ashley visits at least once a year. She serves as chef d’cuisine at Funky Monkey Bistro & Bar, an Orlando, Florida restaurant co-owned by her father, and she is poised to open her own eatery, called Restaurant Ash, in Orlando.

Her father, Eddie Nickell, has even more extensive Dayton-area ties. He was raised in Miamisburg, and held several restaurant positions in the Dayton area before moving to Florida. He was a server at Rene’s At the Dayton Marriott, manager of Delphine’s at Holiday Inn Dayton Mall, and, for four years in the early 1990s, was service captain at the prestigious, now-defunct l’Auberge restaurant in Kettering. He and partner Nicholas Olivieri today operate a half-dozen restaurants in the Orlando area.

Here’s what Ashley had to say on her Facebook page about her father:

“This man has been my rock, a shoulder to cry on, someone who pounded hard work into my soul, the man who raised me to love and respect food. He took me under his wings and had full faith in my that I would not let him down. I did this for him more than anything. I did this to show the man, that no matter who doesn’t like you or doesn’t admire your passion. You created a powerhouse of a female chef, who made the top 3 in one of the most respected culinary competition shows of all time. Thanks to you I was able to achieve my ultimate dream in life. To cook for my idol Gordon Ramsay. Because of you my dreams now have to be even bigger than this although, I can tell you this. I’m complete.”


And here’s what Ashley had to say about her experience on Hell’s Kitchen:

“What an epic ride this has been! While I didn’t make the top two, I’m filled with nothing but gratitude and inspiration. Getting on the show, and being in the top three is an enormous honour I do not take lightly. This experience and the people I met and got to know along the way has changed me profoundly in ways I cannot begin to explain.

“Even though my chapter on Hell’s Kitchen came to a close today, the road ahead is paved with creativity and passion. Thank you to Chef Gordon Ramsay as well ass Chef Christina Wilson and the entire team at Hell’s Kitchen for this life-changing opportunity, my family and friends, and all the fans who kept me going week after week. I’m forever grateful and am ready to take on life’s next chapter head on: opening Restaurant ASH next month. Stay tuned! This is just the beginning!”

If I’m in Orlando anytime soon, I know which new restaurant I’m going to check out.

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