GiGi "Salmon Queen" Ashworth popularizing allergen-friendly seafood cooking

GiGi 'The Salmon Queen' holding salmon
Photo courtesy of GiGi Ashworth/Instagram
8 Min

GiGi Ashworth - who goes by the moniker "the Salmon Queen" - is an online influencer specializing in allergen-friendly and ketovore-centric cuisine. Ashworth is the author of two cookbooks focused on cooking for diverse dietary needs. 

SeafoodSource: How did you first get into seafood?

Ashworth: I was raised in a very food-centric family. Number one, we're of French descent, and my dad loves French cooking. And on the weekends, because he was a full-time businessman, he would relax in the kitchen, and make a whole bunch of different meals and feasts. And I would always help him in the kitchen. My mom, on the other hand, works in nutrition, she’s a doctor. I kind of married the two together. However, I was diagnosed with a lot of autoimmune diseases, food allergies, and intolerances when I was 14. So, I had to start paying attention to the food that I was eating. One food in particular that made me feel good was salmon. Then I just started to educate myself on the different types of salmon, and [its cooking] preparations. 

At the time, I was actually in boarding school and I didn't have the capability of cooking up an elaborate meal. I was snowboarding competitively, then I went back home, and that's when I started getting into it, maybe around age 17. In my last year of high school, since I had access to the kitchen and a bunch of different seafood meals and stuff like that. I [just] realized how much I love salmon and how delicious it is. 

SeafoodSourceHow did you get into social media?

Ashworth: I moved to Los Angeles after I went to college in Colorado, and I started this online platform where I was talking about celebrity fitness, diet trends, and all that kind of stuff. I'm very much into health and nutrition, and I was enamored by this celebrity lifestyle. Back in the day, I wanted to be an entertainment reporter, and people told me I needed this online presence to get to where I wanted in life. Then I realized that I do not care about celebrities. So, I morphed it more into my lifestyle because people wanted; to know the face behind the videos about celebrity diet fitness trends. I started talking about this ketogenic, carnivore-esque lifestyle because that's what I've lived since I was 14. 

SeafoodSource: How did the GiGi Eats platform start? 

Ashworth: I started on a website called GiGi Eats Celebrities because eats was a play on words for making fun of celebrities. I started on Instagram about a year later. I didn't take it super seriously back then because everyone was like, ‘What is Instagram?’ But by 2014, I started to take it more seriously because my blog had exploded, and I was being offered trips to Taiwan and Vietnam and salmon-related trips, all culinary experiences. And what they liked about me is that I was showcasing the fact that you can go abroad, and enjoy the culture, even if you have food allergies and intolerances.

SeafoodSource: What were those travel experiences like?

Ashworth: [For me], what it comes down to is getting a translator number one, and secondly, just not being afraid to ask questions, and not being embarrassed about my [dietary] "problems." I don't see my issues as issues. They're just part of who I am. If I have to not have sugar in my food, I'm going to ask if that can happen. 

When I was in Taiwan, I randomly got this email from the Tourism Board of Taiwan saying "We want you to come to Taiwan."  I sent a text to my dad being like, "I'm gonna go to Taiwan." He was like, ‘No, you're not’. And he was terrified. He was in risk management, so he always thinks of the worst-case scenario. But I went, and we were greeted at the airport. It was just a girlfriend of mine and myself. We just took a little tour bus around the entire country for five days and we [went] to a bunch of different Michelin-starred restaurants, we went to local farms, we went to people's homes, and just really got immersed in the culture. We went to really fun restaurants that had the most unique cuisine ever. I remember seeing a shrimp dish where there was vanilla frosting and sprinkles on top. I think I still have a photo. It's probably on my Instagram somewhere. It was it was a really interesting and cool experience. I've also done a culinary cruise through Greece and Italy, which was probably my favorite trip of all. I've had some of the best food on the face of the planet [even though I] can't have wheat, dairy, gluten, sugar, soy, fruits, nuts, or eggs. I was like, "Wow, [I] can't eat anything yet [I] still had amazing food."

SeafoodSourceWhen did you gain the title ‘The Salmon Queen’? What was the story behind that?

 Ashworth: I don't remember exactly when that title came to be. I want to say it was maybe 2013 or 2014. Someone just was like, "Oh my, you eat so much salmon. You're the salmon queen." And it just kind of stuck. I'm not a huge fan of the label "queen," that's just not my personality, [but] I guess it's here to stay. I don't see myself stopping eating salmon. Like at Seafood Expo North America here, I think I've already eaten 10 pounds of salmon. And I will probably go eat 10 more.

SeafoodSource: What do you think of this year's Seafood Expo North America?

 AshworthMy impression is just wow. There are so many different seafood and fish companies trying to get the word out and share their products, and they truly love what they do. And I love that because I'm the same way. I truly love what I do. I love seeing passionate people pushing seafood because it's my favorite food.

SeafoodSource: Do you work directly with seafood companies? 

 Ashworth: I work with a bunch of different salmon companies. I don't have any exclusivity with anyone in particular.

SeafoodSource: And your cookbooks, can you talk about those?

Ashworth: I have two cookbooks. One is called She Does Keto. It was a ketogenic lifestyle cookbook. And my second book, I self-published it, because it's very, very niche. The publishers I was reaching out to said it was too niche. If I had maybe a general seafood book, that would be different, but it was really specific to salmon. That book is called Seduced by Salmon. I started writing it ... in January 2021. Then I got pregnant, and I couldn't look at salmon for like three months. I was like, "Oh my God, I have to take my salmon crown down." This book has 69 recipes for salmon, and talks about the health benefits, where you can find the best salmon. It has different cooking methods, and then the different types of salmon. There's more than just recipes in this book, which I like to emphasize because a lot of times people when they pick up a cookbook, they think they are going to only find recipes. Part of this book is there are no popular allergens in it. There's also no sugar in any of the recipes. I made this cookbook for myself but I also made it for the masses to show they can also make these recipes.

SeafoodSource: At what point were you on the hit television show Master Chef? 

Ashworth: I was on MasterChef that aired June 2023. It was it was a cool experience. I met some of the most amazing people. Usually, you don't mesh well with maybe one or two people, but every single person who was flown out to Los Angeles to be a part of this show is incredible, and we're still friends today. It was such a great camaraderie of people and knowledge. It was also just excitement because everyone was like, "Oh my gosh, what's going to happen next," because you just don't know. It was also very grueling filming hours. We had to be up at 3 a.m., and we didn't finish filming until 9 p.m., and we had to do the same thing the next day. Overall, it was really rewarding because it was such a cool experience. The season I was on was all based on regions. I'm a mutt in the United States; I lived in Connecticut, Wyoming, California, New Mexico, and Georgia. So I didn't know what region I was supposed to be a part of. I thought I was that was going to be used to my advantage. But, they were so region-specific, that I didn't make it into the top 20. They loved to play with the fact that I was a salmon queen and showcase the salmon tattoo in my mouth. I remember when I was filming, I showed them my tattoo, and they all looked at me like, "Why did you do that?"

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