Q&A with YogaChefJess
On a recent sunny autumn Friday, Leslie and I walked through our favorite food cart pod—The Bite on Belmont at 43rd and Belmont—to find that a new restaurant had arrived: YogaChefJess.
The food cart A-frame showed a variety of delicious-sounding meals. We became more excited the longer we reviewed the menu. The ingredients and creations sounded mouthwatering and—to Leslie’s delight—everything was plant-based.
Leslie and I, along with my parents—who joined us on the outing—ordered about half the menu which rotates weekly. After the first couple bites, we were sold. And I thought to myself, Sunnysiders have got to know about YogaChefJess.
I recently visited with Jess at her food cart, ordered the Potato Cakes (mashed tater cakes topped with bacon-jam, cilantro crema, cilantro and chez), and asked her some questions while I made my way through the delectable lunch she had just cooked up for me.
Jess, who lives in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, is a deeply passionate professional chef and yoga instructor. Her mission for over 16 years has been to help people create healthy habits through quality eating and meditation.
In addition to her cart at The Bite on Belmont, YogaChefJess provides meal subscriptions, nutrition consulting, yoga and fitness instruction, cooking demos, and other holistic services. (Check out her website at yogachefjess.com.) Her meal subscriptions include lunches and dinners that are premade, plant-based, and free from gluten, soy, and refined sugar.
Alrighty, YogaChefJess. How long have you lived in Portland?
Jess: I’ve lived here for six years. I’m from North Carolina. I noticed that Portland was more catered to my lifestyle as a yoga instructor and plant-based foodie.
Had you visited Portland before moving here?
Jess: No, I didn’t visit. My cousin lived out here, needed a nanny, and asked if I wanted to be a nanny for them. I thought, “Okay, but if I go out there, I’m probably not going to come back.” So I just sold everything and moved out here. Then a year later my cousin moved away! But I love it here.
You had a catering business before this. What led you to opening this physical restaurant?
Jess: I do still have a catering business. I just needed more space. Even though this is still a small space, it’s a little more space than what I’m used to to create my meals and stuff. We built a kitchen for my business, and now we have this too.
How long have you been open? We noticed that you took the spot of Dinger’s Deli which we used to frequent.
Jess: This is only my fourth week! So I’m really good friends with Brian, founder and owner of Dinger’s. He was like, “I want you to be here. I love what you do. I’m burning out. They need really good food and you’re the best replacement for me.”
What do you love about having your cart in Sunnyside?
It’s alive. I really like the location here and the neighborhoods. I love how people are often walking by. There’s enough going on this side of the street [north side of Belmont] that people are passing by, walking their dogs and stuff.
Okay, so one month in, how does it feel?
Jess: It feels pretty good. Jumping into anything is a roller coaster. But it has been a good roller coaster. You know, I didn’t fall out of the ride. Nothing fell off. The wheels are still attached. We’re slowly going up. We’re in a hole, but we’re not sinking in the hole (laughs). I do have a couple of people that come and help me, but it’s mostly me.
What’s one fun fact about Yoga Chef Jess?
Jess: I did my yoga teacher training in Thailand. It’s a 500 hour certification. While the first was in Thailand, my second yoga teacher training was here in Portland. I’ve learned various styles such as Hatha, Bikram, Integral, Astana, Anusara.
* Go visit the restaurant YogaChefJess at 4255 SE Belmont Street or sign up for a meal plan and more at yogachefjess.com