Published on June 25th, 2013 | by Joe Lawler
Meet the Chef: Jeremy Jessen of Local Yocals
Jeremy Jessen, 36, has worked in restaurants from a young age. He recently opened his own food stand, Local Yocals, operating at farmers markets and bars around town. Local Yocals typically serves burgers and fries, and uses almost entirely Iowa products — from the grass-fed beef to ketchup made from Iowa tomatoes to fries cooked in lard rendered from Iowa pigs.
Q: What got you interested in cooking?
I got started in restaurants when I was 13, and at 13 it was just easy money. I did take time off from cooking, but I got back into it with my friend Kurt Chausse at The Cafe in Ames. That’s when I realized how much I liked cooking and that it was probably going to be my career.
Q: What prompted you to start using Iowa-made ingredients?
There were a lot of restaurants I worked in and went to eat at that claimed to use local ingredients, but in reality they used very few. It irritated me that people were using that for their own benefit when they weren’t really doing it. Local Yocals is about 90 percent Iowa-grown, and the rest we purchase from an Iowa company. There are certain things you just can’t grow in Iowa, like sea salt.
Q: Is Local Yocals something you would like to see become a brick-and-mortar business?
It is. This time next year is what we’re shooting for. I just graduated from the University of Iowa a couple weeks ago and senior year was spent making a business plan to turn Local Yocals into a restaurant.
Q: Do you plan to change up the menu as things come into season?
Our focus is burgers and fries. That’s what we are, and I want to maintain that. But there will be other things popping up on the menu depending on the event we’re doing. At the Ames Farmers Market on Saturday mornings I’ve been doing egg sandwiches, serving them on focaccia buns that South Union makes just for us. I’m at 515 Brewing Company every Friday and that’s the only place I serve my loaded fries, made with a beer cheese sauce showcasing some of the local beers.
Q: What’s missing from the Des Moines dining scene?
There are restaurants like HoQ that are attempting to do what I’m doing, or I’m attempting to do what they’re doing, but they are doing more full service. I’m trying to do more of a fast casual thing that I would eventually like to be more like a fast food drive-thru experience, but with slow food.
Find it: 4:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at the Beaverdale Farmers Market, south of Boesen the Florist, 3422 Beaver Ave.
11 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays (along with Gusto Pizza, Tacopocalypse and Woody’s Barbecue) at Regency West Office Park, 4700 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines
4-9 p.m. Fridays at 515 Brewing Company, 7700 University Ave., Clive
8 a.m.-noon Saturdays at the Ames Main Street Farmers Market, 400 Main St., Ames.