After 16 years manning the stores and stoves at some of Lafayette's best restaurants, Ashley Roussel is ready to normalize her life. Starting Sept. 1, she'll begin a new tack in her career, leaving her post as Saint Street Inn executive chef for the same position with nouveau grocery concept Simone's Market in New Orleans. There she'll be in charge of the market's prepared foods, seafood and butchery departments, concocting and creating takeaway meals from scratch-made provisions like soup stocks, pickles, condiments and homemade pastas.
While that's still a hefty workload, the self-described "perpetual sous-chef" says the move to fellow Acadiana ex-pat Simone Reggie's new grocery outfit will give her the chance to pursue a more balanced lifestyle.
“I’ll be 34 this year. I know how young I am," Roussel says. "But there are certain things that I want from my future and my life. But when you’re married to your job, it’s been tough to find that balance. I’ll get to give some energy to a life outside of the four walls of a restaurant.”
A tireless manager and creator, Roussel brought a consistency and creativity to Saint Street Inn that the restaurant had flirted with before but struggled to maintain through the tenures of a few predecessors. With Roussel in charge the restaurant hit its stride, producing a cuisine that was as accessible and niche as the restaurant's chummy atmosphere.
A wizard with hummus and off-beat seasonal dishes, Roussel's cooking was affectionate and irreverent, and always served with heartful charm.
In her place will step Jackson Nevitt, former chef and co-owner of Downtown's art house and bistro Astra Modern. Nevitt, like Roussel, runs in a circle of chefs loosely confederated around Denny and Katy Culbert's Runaway Dish series and the local slow foods movement. He's worked at a number of topnotch Lafayette restaurants including the sadly defunct Cochon, Social Southern Table and Bar, Pamplona and, most recently, Ruffino's.
Roussel says Nevitt is a natural fit for restaurant's culture and farm-to-table philosophy, but to expect him to impart his own character to restaurant's eclectic menu.
"We wanted someone who could take the restaurant forward on the path we were on," Roussel says. "Jackson’s gonna do a great job. It’s going to be different. It’s impossible that it would be the same. I’m excited to see the direction that he would take it.
Nevitt has been training with Roussel for the last week or so. He'll officially take over Saint Street Inn after Roussel's last shift at the end of this week.