By: Jess Rice
I have called Nashville home since 2010. I originally moved to Nashville for the same reasons most transplants do; I came to further my career in the music business as a publicist and artist manager. About 5 years ago, I found myself feeling pretty miserable sitting at my desk 9-5 every day, so I decided to completely ditch all that I had worked for and start completely fresh; I was sick of feeling overly stressed, anxious and lethargic at work. I wanted to learn everything there was to learn about health and wellness. I had started dabbling in the kitchen when I decided to adopt a raw vegan diet (Full speed ahead, right? No baby steps!) and hitting the gym every day. I discovered my true passion when I took this leap. Months later, I quit my day job and hopped on a plane to Indonesia, where I studied holistic nutrition and detox coaching with a Naturopath Doctor in Ubud. After completing her program, I decided to pursue a more structured culinary education with Matthew Kenney in Santa Monica, CA. I came back to Nashville and opened AVO about 2 years later. I sold AVO not too long ago and have since been working as a private plant-based chef in Nashville and on tour.
I was the keynote speaker at the very first Nashville VegFest 3 years ago and I am beyond excited to return this year! I will be speaking about my experiences as a private chef on tour and giving a knife skills demo at 10:30am on April 7th, kicking off the festivities at the Nashville Fairgrounds!
My favorite part of Nashville VegFest, which drew an unanticipated crowd of over 4,000 people its first year, is visiting all of the vendor booths. You wouldn’t think there would be SO MANY options for people living a plant-based lifestyle in the deep fried South, but the restaurants, shops, products, and experts is endless at VegFest! I picked out a few of my absolute favorites to share with you on The Nashville Guide blog this year.
KOKOS Vegan Ice Cream
You might already recognize KOKOS from Instagram (or People Magazine!) The expertly designed shop is located on Porter Rd. in East Nashville between The Terminal Café and PONY clothing store, part of the independently-spirited “Shops of Porter East” complex. KOKOS is Nashville’s first locally made, dairy free, 100% plant-based (AND nut free!) artisan ice cream company. They sell mouth watering “drumstick” cones and scoops every weekend, Friday through Sunday from 1pm – 4pm.
“Holy Chocolate” is right!
They cover all of the classic flavors like coffee (Cuban dark roast), mint chip, vanilla cherry, “Holy Chocolate” and coconut chai. Every flavor is to die for. I dare you to bring any friend who is the toughest critic of special diets and #hashtags. I guarantee they won’t be able to tell it’s #vegan, #nutfree, and #healthy. Their grand opening is on April 14th from 1-8-pm. Go visit them and tell them Jess and The Nashville Guide sent you. I can’t wait to visit their booth at VegFest and grab a chocolate-coated cone of goodness. Yes. PLEASE.
The Nashville Public Library
The Nashville Public Library is one of VegFest’s generous sponsors this year. The library does so much for our city and keeps a fully stocked cookbook section at all of their locations. If you’re curious about brushing up on your skills in the kitchen and trying some new healthy recipes, there’s a book for that! (In fact, there are hundreds of books for that. The catalogue and resources at the Nashville Public Library is beyond extensive!)
The BeHive has been around for a while. If you have enjoyed the seitan sandwich at Mitchell Deli or tried any of the specials on the menu at The Wild Cow, or passed by the vegetarian section in the produce aisle at Whole Foods, you’ve experienced the wonders of The BeHive!
The BeHive strives to make plant-based eating easier and more accessible to our community through their products, special events and exquisite catering. They offer retail and wholesale items, and host monthly dinners that benefit the Nashville community. Curious about seitan? What is it anyway? The BeHive has the answers you seek:
Seitan is a plant-based protein made from wheat that dates back to the 6th century, when it was developed by Buddhist monks. Whole wheat flour is rinsed to extract gluten (the main protein of the wheat plant). This "vital wheat gluten" is then used as a base for a savory dough which is steamed or boiled. The result is a low-carb, high-protein food with a strikingly meat-like texture and flavor, suitable for use as a main course in all kinds of cuisine.
I’m not too crazy about “meat substitutes,” (I’ll take a giant farmers market salad over mystery meat any day!) but The BeHive’s products are different. They are crazy flavorful, locally made, and are sure to please even the most discerning meat lover. Find them at VegFest this year (and hopefully every year!) for a free sample.
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to chat with me more, come find me at VegFest, sign up for one of my upcoming cooking classes, or send me a message on Instagram. I love sharing veggie-friendly Nashville recommendations whenever I can!
Jess is a professional chef in Nashville, TN. She is the former owner and creator of AVO, Nashville’s first raw vegan restaurant, located on Charlotte Avenue. Jess has worked as a private chef on tour with Neil Young and, most recently, made her Food Network debut alongside Trisha Yearwood on “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen,” teaching knife skills on the episode “Sharpen Up.” Jess is the keynote speaker at this year’s Nashville VegFest, happening on April 7th at the Nashville Fairgrounds. Jess teaches plant-based cooking classes regularly around town, throws pop-up dinners, and works as a private chef on tour. For more information and to learn more about Jess’ work, visit ChefJessRice.com, find her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram @MyPoorTiredLiver.