In the world of Santa Cruz cuisine, Chef Jessica Yarr has become a well-known name, having left her mark at popular local eateries like Assembly and Gabriella Café. She now owns and operates both the Chicken Foot pop-up in Downtown Santa Cruz and The Grove Cafe in Felton, earning her recognition and praise as the 2023 NEXTies Foodie of the Year.
After a successful career in the restaurant industry, Jessica transitioned to a high-level position at a large tech company’s headquarters for a corporate food service company. Since then, she has been working on culinary strategy teams, including global sustainability and reimagining the culinary business model post-COVID.
Today, Jessica bring her passion for food and unique culinary point of view to Santa Cruz County eateries. Her deep roots in the Santa Cruz community and her local following are a testament to her dedication and commitment to providing an exceptional culinary experience to her patrons as The Grove Cafe opened in March of this year with much fanfare.
Describe what you do in two sentences.
Jessica Yarr: I am a chef focusing on creating unique and innovative dining experiences while working with the best local farms!
What inspired you to pursue your current path, and how did you get started?
Jessica Yarr: I was working as a chef for a large tech company, during the pandemic my job shifted and I began working on my own business!
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement so far in your career, and why?
Jessica Yarr: I have had a successful career in many ways, this year I have had my biggest achievement yet, opening my first brick and Mortar The Grove.
What are you most looking forward to in 2023?
More events, more great food and cooking in my own restaurant!
What are your future career goals and aspirations?
Jessica Yarr: I want to be the millennial Julia Child, I would love to have my own television show!
What role do you believe mentorship and networking have played in your success?
Jessica Yarr: I have been lucky to have soo many mentors over the years including past Nexties alumni Kendra Baker and Zac Davis. I have been a mentor for my team, and have done many community events to build strong relationships with farmers, restaurateurs, and chefs.
How do you stay connected with your community?
Jessica Yarr: I volunteer for fundraisers, collaborations, and participate in the Famer’s market that has the strongest food community!
What does being a NEXTie honoree mean to you?
Jessica Yarr: I am incredibly honored as a career Santa Cruz chef being recognized for what I love to do!
Who will be joining you at this year’s NEXTies award show on March 31?
Jessica Yarr: My boyfriend Brian, my mom and some friends!
Anything else you would like to share?
Jessica Yarr: The Grove Cafe and Bakery opening is March 10th!
Celebrate with your NEXTiesDress up and come out for an evening in honor of those in Santa Cruz County who inspire the community.