Sitting across from her, you would never know that Ashley Cheng is in the middle of new ice cream flavors to taste-test, a yoga teaching program to design and carry out, on top running the communications behind her family’s restaurant chain, Chinatown. Especially if it's a Tuesday or Thursday–when those who are closest to her know better than to make her phone ring.
“Those are the days I'm teaching yoga,” Cheng says. “I owe more to my students than to distract them with what's going on in my life. Unless it's an emergency!” But when she is talking to you, Cheng is warm and friendly, giving you every ounce of attention she has, making it clear why all three businesses she's involved in have been wildly successful. Cheng was born and raised in Austin, and after going to school and working on the northeast coast, and then a few years in Taiwan, she made her way back to Texas and back into the family business. “I never wanted to be in the food business. I had been around it my whole life,” Cheng admits. “I had always wanted to live in a big city, but in the ten years I was gone, Austin became a big city.”
Now you can find Cheng behind the scenes at her father's restaurant Chinatown, the longest running Chinese restaurant in Austin. “It helps that my dad really listens and works well with my feedback,” Cheng says. “I organize the menu, and mine and my sibling's favorite dishes and requests can be found all over.”
Then almost two years ago, Cheng and her sister Christina (pastry chef of Spun) decided to open their own liquid nitrogen ice cream shop. SPUN, located on east 7th street, uses fair trade chocolate, local dairy and organic spices to concoct their tasty desserts, made through a liquid nitrogen process. Their flavors are seasonal, so Cheng is constantly taste-testing her sister's newest creations. “We try to stick to flavors we know children who walk in would want,” she says. “My sister's birthday is coming up, so birthday cake will be the next flavor, but dark chocolate isn't going anywhere.”
Between helping her family's business and co-running her ice cream shop, Cheng teaches "Slow Flow" yoga at Castle Hill Fitness. Her style is inspired and learned from Forrest Yoga, alignment-based Vinyasa, and therapeutic yoga. Forrest yoga is a method of yoga that emphasizes on a more slow and artful routine, holding poses longer and making a deeper connection to breath. “I have a lot of yoga teachers drop into my class when they're injured, which I find quite flattering,” Cheng says. “People trust me, and a yoga teacher that I adore told me she attends my class because she feels scrubbed from the inside. It's cleansing, which is nice.” She’s passionate about providing a playful space for students of all levels to create their own healing practice.
For Cheng, yoga has provided the building blocks, (physical, emotional and spiritual support) to build a life she continues to be proud of today. “My yoga practice has taught me the ability to be whole all of the time,” Cheng says. “With most people, you're a whole human and there are all of these sort of aspects of your personality, and you have to be able to feed them. Right now, all of these segments of my life do that.”