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On the Road

On the Road: Buxton Hall Barbecue

In Asheville, N.C., pastry chef Ashley Capps aims to surprise. "When I have an idea, it's not gonna leave me until I try it."
By Published Jan. 5, 2020

It's early morning at Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville, North Carolina. Sunlight creeps through skylights to illuminate battered wood floors and mingle with smoke from a wood fire burning down to coals for two adjacent barbecue pits. I'm not here for barbecue; I'm here for banana pudding pie, a Buxton specialty that pastry chef Ashley Capps has agreed to make for me. This is no small favor; the pie is a complex, multilayered beast. “You know the term easy as pie? It's so false. It's just easy to eat,” she says with a laugh.

As a child, Capps was fond of her mother's meringue-topped banana pudding. Transforming the childhood dessert into a pie fit for a restaurant was “a combination of technique and nostalgia,” a blending of her “inner child and Southern roots.”

Buxton Hall Barbecue pastry chef Ashley Capps is seen using a torch to finish off one of their famous banana pudding pies.

She builds the pie with a mesmerizing confidence, carefully forming the crumb crust into the corner of the pie plate, the “neck” of the pie, so the slices stay sturdy. She stirs the pudding with a spatula, not a whisk, so the custard won't curdle in the corners of the pot. She insists that cooking the egg whites to 168 degrees is the key to a stable meringue, “although the textbooks disagree.”

While she works, she talks about the arc of a culinary career: the struggle of learning the process and techniques; the discipline of repetition; and after sufficient growth and self-awareness, the feeling of fulfillment from making the same thing as close to perfect every time. Her passion for the process is evident.

The banana pudding pie was a hit on the Buxton Hall menu from day one. And even though Ashley left the restaurant on good terms last year to pursue other opportunities, the pie remains. Call it a little slice of nostalgia.

Two barbecue pits loaded with pork and chicken provide a prelude to pie.