Positive Eating Expert & Lifestyle Presenter
Official Agent: Craig Latto
Charlene Ashong is a chef and TV presenter. From secretly admiring the native Italians studying at her uni smuggling boxes of pasta and cheese into their digs from small Italian towns, to calling time on her teaching career to explore foodie central Bologna – her curiosity for food discovery all started in the land of the boot.
A regular, free-spirited and upbeat west London postgraduate, Charlene moved to Italy of her own accord at 23, with a couple of cases and some lunchtime Italian.
For ten years she ate ridiculous amounts of ragu in Bologna, modelled in Milan and fell in love in Abruzzo, eventually moving to this central southern region to muscle in with the real movers and shakers of the food scene – the nonnas.
It was at this point of her rather pasta-heavy food journey that Charlene made a choice to shift to ‘cleaner’ foods – fewer carbs, more proteins but without losing any Italian charm. Whilst hanging out in the mountains and along the coast of the terrain, the nonnas and locals of Abruzzo taught her all about the food they survived on – allergy-friendly pasta, ancient grains, veggie broths and local meat ragus.
Italian cooking became a lifestyle to Charlene. Like the nonnas, up early to see which ingredients could be purchased from local farmers; prepping local fish, seasonal beans and grains; making mini decadent desserts with amazing sugar alternatives; looking forward to the sit down lunch with the cooks and the farmers whilst arguing Italian style about the best flour to use in the dessert for dinner, Charlene thought back to London and the lonely gluten-free flapjacks just beginning to emerge in Costa Coffee… she knew she had some great knowledge and food experiences to offer – and so Fitaly was born, an Italian healthy eating food brand.
Twinning the concept of natural wholefoods with Italian tradition organically opened up an allergy-friendly door. This allowed her to use traditional Italian cooking techniques whilst experimenting with alternative gluten-free flours such as polenta, teff and chestnut, grains and plant-based versions of Italian dishes such as lasagne, pies, pizzas and ragu.
Charlene's passion for food having functionality and positive purpose for the body was birthed from her personal food journey after returning to London addicted to sugar and ‘guilt eating’. She put a stop to both; realising her mental relationship with food had to match the knowledge she had gained in Italy.
Charlene believes that food, the mind and the body are all in relationship when it comes to diet.
The mind fuels food choices and the body receives the consequence of those food choices. She wants to revolutionise this order by choosing food for the most positive mental and physical outcome, which will be different for everyone's lifestyle. Rather than make food enemies or harsh food sacrifices, Charlene focuses on having the best alternatives from intolerances to indulgences to help us feel better as people. “Forget dieting – train the mind to respect positive foods which will respect your body back!” Charlene is on a mission to get her audience to quit toxic food relationships.
As an ex-secondary school teacher, educating people about food comes naturally, from unhappy food eaters to healthy heroes. She also appeals to today's millennial snackers to choose super-quick alternatives like bruschetta instead of ubering chips.
A street food van in 2016, Fitaly caught the attention of Jamie Oliver's Food Tube who loved Charlene's west London language switch to Southern Italian as she joyfully taught punters about plant-based Italian food with flare and individuality. She filmed some healthy Italian recipes with them (Fresh One Productions), her sweet potato pie attracting over 95k viewers. She also featured as the talent for an IWC Media (Banijay) pilot ‘4 Italian Foods’, showcasing dishes made informally as Charlene travelled exploring Italian ingredients in different Italian regions. Shortly after opening the Fitaly cafe in Kensington High Street, Charlene featured twice on Gaby Roslin's BBC Radio London show as the food slot, telling listeners about allergy-friendly, healthy Italian tips and tricks.
Most recently, Charlene has filmed a mini-series for ITV's Lorraine called ‘Charlene's Italian Table’ showing audiences how they can eat healthy Italian free-from on a practical budget.
Charlene's down to earth personality and naturally upbeat enthusiasm makes lifestyle cooking with her very casual, very fun and very high energy (albeit with her impromptu Italianisms).
“Food education has to be cool, charming and relevant to an audience – it's about lifestyle and hope for living better”
- Lorraine: Charlene's Italian Table - ITV
- Gaby Roslin Show - BBC Radio London