FROM HER KITCHEN TO YOURS: An interview with Ashley McMakin, founder and CEO, Ashley Mac’s Kitchen

Ashley McMakin enjoys cooking for friends and family. Always has.

At first, though, “I had no plans of (cooking) becoming a career,” she said.

MEMBER SINCE 2010: Find the hours for the five Ashley Mac’s Kitchen locations or order online at

With a degree in marketing and her husband with one in accounting, each was busy in 2005 with their chosen careers when Ashley started catering. She crafted the home-style food her mother and grandmother taught her how to make in the tiny kitchen of the newlyweds’ Homewood condominium.

My friends wanted to hire me to cook for their events, and we just thought this would be something fun to do until we had kids,” she said.

Two years later, Ashley’s husband, Andy, convinced her to open a storefront. “People love your food so much. I just think it would be a shame to stop,” he told her.

In 2007, Ashley Mac’s catering opened in the Bluff Park community of Hoover. Ashley Mac’s Kitchen today has one café each in Cahaba Heights, downtown Birmingham and Homewood plus two in Hoover. Each location has a dine-in menu, family meals to-go and a market that offers pints and quarts of chicken salad, pimento cheese and more, plus frozen entrees, sides, soups and breads. Ashley Mac’s Kitchen also still offers catering services.

Ashley Mac’s Kitchen’s wholesale arm sells select products in most Piggly Wigglys in Birmingham, Star Market in Huntsville and at NorthRiver Cattle Co., a butcher shop in Tuscaloosa.

In March, “Ashley Mac’s Kitchen,” the cookbook, came out, featuring a mix of Ashley Mac’s classics – like her strawberry cake and baby bleu salad – along with dishes she cooks at home.



Number of Employees

Many people have poured into me over the years, and I’m so grateful. I credit my husband as my business mentor. He has a lot of experience in various fields of business and leadership. I look to him when I make difficult decisions or need a listening ear. I also have a whole crew of unofficial mentors in my Les Dames d’ Escoffier ladies. It is a group of women in the hospitality industry, and I lean on many of them for advice from staffing to vendors to other food business related issues. They have a wealth of knowledge and many have been doing this much longer than myself. They are also some of my greatest encouragers and cheerleaders!

Smart Move
Investing in good talent from the beginning and continually seeking to add great members to our team. I’m thankful for our team!

Wisdom Shared 
Your business is only as good as your people.

Learning Moment
2020 was an extremely hard yet also beneficial year for us at Ashley Mac’s. Much came to the surface during the pandemic – some made us excel, and others opened our eyes to where we really needed to improve, such as our inventory processes. 

Family Grows with Business
Early in their marriage, the McMakins struggled with infertility. “I see God’s hand in allowing us that time to build Ashley Mac’s Kitchen,” said Ashley.

“I would not have started Ashley Mac’s, if it wasn’t for Andy,” said Ashley McMakin of her husband, Andy McMakin. “He is the visionary and the risk taker.”

They now have two sons, an adopted daughter and have fostered two other children.

Their first son was born in 2009. In 2010, they opened their first sit-down location in Cahaba Heights. Their second son came in 2011 followed by the Inverness café in Hoover in 2013. The McMakins adopted their daughter from China while opening their second Hoover café in Riverchase in 2015. Their Homewood (2018) and Pizitz Food Hall in downtown Birmingham (2020) cafés opened while they welcomed their first foster son into their home.

To be able to raise a family and grow our business is a huge blessing,” Ashley said.

The McMakins are hands-on parents who swap out taking their children to school each day. “One of us takes them to the junior high and one of us takes them to elementary, and then we flip flop every day, so that we have time with each of them,” she said.

It Takes a Team
From the beginning, the McMakins “chose to invest in our people. We know we are only as good as they are,” said Ashley.

Each of our employees is critical,” she added. “From the frontline staff to cleaning staff to those making the salads and sandwiches to those making deliveries.

The “key leaders run the show” and allow her to get her work done while her children are in school. “We have a great team of managers and upper level management.

Ashley as CEO and Andy as chairman oversee the management team that includes vice presidents of operations, finance and branding. Each location has a general manager, assistant general manager and shift leaders.

We are always looking to add great people to our team and for ways to love and support our employees too, because we want it to be a great place for people to work.”

A ham holiday bundle at Ashley Mac’s Kitchen includes sour cream biscuits, brown sugar bacon green beans and twice baked mashed potatoes.

Holiday Crunch Time
Having a good team in place is essential, especially in crunch times. The holiday season is our busiest time at Ashley Mac’s,” said Ashley. “November and December are by far just our craziest months with people grabbing food for the holidays.

The Ashley Mac’s Kitchen holiday menu “has the staples, items that have been on the menu since the beginning – cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, squash casserole and our green beans,” said Ashley. “During COVID, we started doing a holiday bundle. We have a turkey bundle and a ham bundle. It all comes frozen; you bake it in your home oven so it’s fresh,” she said.

Order Ashley Mac’s Kitchen – The Cookbook at or buy at select stores.

Cookbook is Business Expander
The cookbook, which makes a great holiday gift, includes the cornbread dressing recipe, but Ashley isn’t too worried about home cooks using her recipes to replace her cafes.

I want people to make the recipes from the cookbook at home, but most people are busy, even if they love to cook. They might make the strawberry cake once or twice, but they’re probably not going to make it for every occasion that they need it,” she said.

Over the years, when I’ve been asked to put a recipe in a newspaper, magazines or online, typically sales go up on that item because people see it and they’re like, ‘That sounds good. Maybe I’ll make it one day or next time I’m in Ashley Mac’s, I’ll just buy it.’ “

The cookbook has even brought in new business.

People who have been gifted the cookbook, whether they’re in Birmingham or somewhere else, have come to see us and said, ‘It’s my first time here.’ ”

We would like to expand in and outside of Birmingham over the next few years. We’ll see what happens.”
– Ashley

Ashley McMakin is founder and chief executive officer of Ashley Mac’s Kitchen, a fast-casual café, catering and market business with five Birmingham area locations.

Story by Nancy King Dennis
Photos by 83 Press and Brandon Robbins

This article is the cover story
of the November 2023 Alabama Retailer.


2022 Gold Alabama Retailer of the Year