Charcuterie Board Styling with Chef Ashton Keefe

I am so excited to share today's post because styling a charcuterie board is something I've always struggled with!  How do you make it look beautiful without overcrowding or feeling sparse?  What is the appropriate mix of cheese, crackers and everything in between? And...btw, what should those "things in between" actually be?
Our expert today is here to answer all of those questions and much more!   Meet New York-based chef and culinary stylist, Ashton Keefe (she also happens to be one of my dearest friends from childhood).
Credit: JJ Jimenez
Throughout her career as a noteable chef in New York City, Ashton has appeared regularly on the TODAY Show, FOX & CNN, received recognition in The New York Times, Martha Stewart and Food & Wine, and become an integral partner for brands and public figures such as Tom Colicchio, Giada DeLaurentiis and Whispering Angel.  Needless to say, we have the expert!
Ashton made two gorgeous and delicious boards for us using our new Limited Edition navy and white charcuterie boards with etúHOME.  Read on to see how she created these boards and for her summer entertaining tips (spoiler alert: recipes included at the end!) 
xo Meg
CC: What are your must-haves for hosting in summer?
AK: Chilled wine, a few fresh summer vegetables (tomatoes and zucchini/squash are my go-to's) and a good playlist. The first and third get and keep the party going. For fresh vegetables, simple slice or chop, season well with salt and olive oil and grab a crusty loaf of bread and you're good to go. Simplicity is summer's forte.
CC: What types of food and spreads do you like serving most in summer?
AK: I'm a big fan of fresh summer produce scattered on a large board of platter and seasoned well with salt and olive oil. I get playful with monochromatic salads and spreads too, choosing all pinks or reds for a decorative look. Greens, asparagus, zucchini, peppers for a green board or yellow squash, melon and yellow tomatoes for a yellow plate. 
Credit: Ashton Keefe
CC: Let's talk charcuterie boards!  How do you like to use them when entertaining?
AK: I love serving everything on a board, it's so FUN and accessible. I love a board salad or a grazing board that sits in the center of the table and people can grab what they like. When making a cheese board I try to hit one of each of the notes: salt, sweet, savory and fresh. I also love serving a roast chicken on a board when the air starts to chill a bit.
Credit: Molly Rose
CC:  I love those ideas!  Why do you like using boards for entertaining?
AK: It's easy to set up (one thing!) and easy to clean (one thing!). Boards in their nature are convivial, fun, inclusive and that's the whole point of entertaining, isn't it?
CC: What is the anatomy of a classic charcuterie board? Where should we start?
AK: My three rules of thumb are pick a theme, divide and conquer, and more is more. When selecting your cheeses you can take it a step further and go all French cheese or Italian or Californian! This theme helps carry through to the other elements on your board. I always start with three cheeses.  Typically, one blue, one hard (think cheddar, gouda, pecorino) and one soft (brie, ricotta, camembert). This way everyone is happy! If you're not a blue fan, simply choose another hard or soft. How do you lay it out? Think of the rule of three, use this by spacing the three cheeses out on your board so your eye keeps moving. I continue to add elements from the board to those three areas until they merge and fill in extra holes with bread - because there can never be enough crackers or bread!
CC: What are some things you can add to these boards (other than food!) to make the presentation extra special?
AK: Toothpicks are here to stay! Boards can get picked over so cute vintage serving spoons, toothpicks and labels for cheeses all help. Edible flowers continue to be available through the summer months, adding them to boards can add a natural and beautiful touch to your meal outside of a traditional arrangement. 
Credit: Ashton Keefe
CC: You created two unique and yummy spreads using our new exclusive navy & white boards with etúHOME.  Can you tell us about them?
AK: *See full recipes below* Salad boards are fun and work really well with vegetables that won't "sweat" too much. When you season vegetables or fruit, they'll release a certain amount of water and ultimately flavor but this creates juice - which while delicious - isn't ideal for boards! Use lettuce or seasonal greens as the base of the board to help catch and excess juice. 
Credit: Ashton Keefe
CC: What's your favorite summer cocktail?
AK: I love Lillet on the rock with a squeeze of lemon or orange, this works both as a day drink on hot days, an aperitif or digestif.
CC: Any other summer entertaining tips?
AK: Let your hair down. The hostess sets the mood and tone of the event, if you're wound up or looking for perfection, your guests will feel like they have to be. And you'd never want your friends to be that way. Hostess anxiety (that's a real thing!) happens to everyone so make sure you give yourself enough time, light a few candles, put on good music, have a small dressing drink and be excited to see your guests.
Credit: JJ Jimenez
Ashton’s Ultimate Cheese Board

Serves 6-8

  • ½ lb. Cabot clothbound cheddar or similar
  • ½ lb. soft triple cream brie
  • ½ lb. bayley hazen or similar domestic blue cheese
  • 1 bunch purple grapes
  • 1 package seeded crackers
  • Sliced meat, such as salami
  • ½ pint castelvetrano olives
  • ½ pint almonds
  • Torn bread, for serving

Directions: Place three pieces of cheese on opposites sides of the board. Next to each piece of cheese lay a bunch of grapes. Shingle and scatter crackers and meat on the outsides of the board and fill holes with olives, almonds and torn bread.

Credit: Ashton Keefe 

Cailíní Coastal Summer Grazing Board

  • 1 bunch baby kale
  • 1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2-3 heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 avocado
  • 3-4 ripe apricots, pitted and quartered
  • Handful of baby zucchini, cut into long strips
  • ½ cantaloupe, seeds and skin removed and cut into long slivers
  • 1 bunch parsley, for garnish
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions: Lay little bunches of kale on edges of the board. Taking small clusters of each element add piles next to each bunch of kale and begin to build, one element at a time until everything meets in the middle. Top with avocado and the nestle in parsley if desired to hold it all together. Season the entire board generously with lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Serve with salad tongs if at a meal and/or little toothpicks for grazing.

Credit: Ashton Keefe


For more amazing recipes and food styling tips follow Ashton at @AshtonKeefe  on Instagram or visit

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