Belmont alumna Ashton Judy, who graduated in 2016 with a major in psychology and minor in business administration, is currently an entrepreneur bringing a unique dining experience to L & L Market in West Nashville through her new restaurant Culture + Co. Teamed up with her mother Jacqueline Palladino, the mother-daughter duo is hoping to bring people together by providing a new type of dining experience as Culture + Co features the first cheese and charcuterie conveyor belt in the country.
Culture + Co. is a cheese, charcuterie and wine-focused dining experience with a menu emphasizing seasonal and artisan cheese and charcuterie along with a curated food pairing. The open kitchen and rotating conveyor belt in the center of the market offers an interactive and communal dining space.
Judy explained the idea came from a trip to London when she visited a similar concept with her mom and sister, and L+L Market was the perfect fit for the idea, especially as a lot of the neighboring businesses are women- or family-owned.
“My mom and I have always dreamed of having a restaurant together. We stumbled upon something similar in London and loved the concept so much! We wanted to put our own spin on it so our menu focuses on more American-made cheeses,” Judy explained. “We had a lot of fun dreaming up the pairings that go along with them. We both love to learn about cheese and wine, and we’re hoping the concept allows for everyone to be adventurous and find new cheeses they love, as well.”
The menu features cheeses from smaller farms around the US, with a couple favorites from around the world, a natural wine list and vegan options. There are quite a few cheeses that the restaurant gets directly from the farms, so Judy feels confident that there will be some cheeses on the menu that are new to Nashville. Some of her favorite menu items include their signature bruleed brie (a creme brulee style brie cheese with apple cider culture butter) and her personal favorite, a fresh goat cheese from Firefly Farms with a housemade lemon marshmallow with arugula pesto. Culture + Co will have new menu offerings for take away starting soon, including at-home party packs, and will also soon have sandwiches and salads to go along with the cheese pairings.
With a background as a pastry chef, Palladino is coordinating the selections, pairings and recipes while Judy aims to handle the business side of things. While a student at Belmont, Judy lived in the University Ministries Service House and served as a spiritual life assistant. As a psychology major, she said she learned how to adequately prepare and foresee potential roadblocks through research projects and also assess results that go against her predictions. This served her well in planning for the restaurant’s opening as the duo had to make sure they were asking difficult questions and learning as much as they could because “this past year was definitely not what we expected.”
Opening the restaurant during a pandemic posed a number of challenges, but Judy said it encouraged her to get even more creative and dream up other ways to serve the concept. She said, “We are operating Culture + Co. safely and staying mindful of the hurdles of the COVID pandemic. While we cannot wait to serve a full bar, we want to keep the community safe above all else. The response so far has been encouraging!”
Culture + Co recently had a soft opening and is currently offering take away and limited dine in options. Visit them at the L&L Market and follow them on Instagram for the latest updates and current menu selections.
“I’m extremely lucky to have been in a place to take this on,” Judy said. “Nashville is welcoming and supportive of creativity and has a growing food (and cheese) scene. We definitely want to add to that– Culture + Co. has already partnered with some other businesses we love and support, but we look forward to collaborating with more in the future!”