Poole's Diner Uses Over 10,000 Pounds Of Cheese Per Year For Its Mac

There's no such thing as too much cheese, and no one knows this better than mac and cheese queen Ashley Christensen. A chef and entrepreneur based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Christensen now owns six restaurants in partnership with her spouse (and former Tasting Table editor!) Kaitlyn Goalen, according to Vogue. Her first and arguably most famous venture was Poole's Diner, "a modern diner with reimagined comfort food," which she opened in 2007 (via AC-Restaurants). In 2019, Christensen was granted James Beard's Outstanding Chef award, and the comfort food found at her flagship establishment reflects her impressive culinary skill –- the menu features grits topped with pico de gallo and burrata with country ham and pickled pumpkin, among other delightful dishes (via Condé Nast Traveler).

There is no Poole's dish more iconic than the macaroni au gratin, however. According to Southern Living, typical macaroni au gratin is the love child of macaroni and cheese and potatoes au gratin, making it the ultimate comfort food that incorporates macaroni, eggs, milk, and cheddar cheese. As you may expect from an award-winning chef, Christensen takes hers to another level.

Everyone's cheesing for Poole's macaroni au gratin

Poole's macaroni au gratin is so beloved it's the most ordered dish on the menu –- in 2018, they sold 16,441 orders, and they use over 10,000 pounds of cheese to make it annually (via Food & Wine). Christensen told Garden and Gun that initially, she would wake up at the crack of dawn to grate all the cheese by hand with her sous chef. As Poole's became more successful, they eventually bought a much-needed food processor to assist, and their hand cramps ceased to exist (or so we like to think).

Luckily for at-home cooks, Christensen gave her famous recipe to the Food Network, among other outlets, so everyone can enjoy it. It uses three types of cheese -– Grana Padano (a more affordable alternative to Parmigiano Reggiano), Jarlsberg, and white Cheddar -– and the milk found in many macaroni au gratin recipes has been kicked to the curb in favor of heavy cream. Once the noodles are mixed with the cheese, the whole dish broils for a few minutes to create a melty, caramelized, golden-brown crust. In her book, "Poole's: Recipes and Stories From a Modern Diner," Christensen wrote, "...when a Macaroni au Gratin is walked through the dining room at Poole's, heads turn, and the phrase 'I'll take one of those' echoes through the joint" (via Visit Raleigh). We can't say we're surprised.