It’s a lifestyle, not a diet: Chef talks about vegan impact on her life

PERRYSBURG — They were beaten out by corn on the cob.

Jacqueline Jones laughed, remembering competing on season 10 of “The Great Food Truck Race” on the Food Network. Her SolFood Collective food truck specialized in vegan dishes and Vegan Elote was the winner in the first week, which was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 2019.

“It was a ‘boardwalk bites’ challenge,” Jones said. “Let’s do corn and let’s do elote, because they love putting mayonnaise on their corn, in the south.”

She won.

“We were shocked, because everyone’s doing deep-fried Oreos and beignets,” Jones said. “All of the food truck teams were like, ‘we lost, to a piece of corn?’”

Well, it’s not just plain, old corn.

Vegan Elote is smothered in mayo and topped off with a feta cheese that makes the corn heartier and decadent — even with the vegan ingredients.

The corn can be made three ways: Grill it, boil it or do both, as Jones did for this recipe.

“My tip is, if you’re going to keep the husk on the end — I like that because it looks pretty, especially if you’re having people over, and it’s a good handle … get that first 2-3 inches wet. Otherwise, if you don’t, when you put it on the grill, it catches on fire.”

Get a taste of Jones’ cooking at SolFood Collective, her Perrysburg kitchen. Her motto is: it’s a lifestyle, not a diet.

Jones’ journey to vegan and lifestyles coach started seven years ago.

She had been a celebrity wardrobe stylist in California for 15 years when she was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, (a.k.a the bamboo spine) in 2015.

“I was constantly having back issues and I thought it was just from being on set for 16 hours and schlepping clothes around,” Jones said. “It turned out I had an autoimmune disease.”

Jones was treated and placed on several medicines. But she was using a cane to get around the house and a wheelchair when venturing out.

“I was 35 and I was … so sick, and so unhealthy.”

She decided to try a vegan diet.

“I didn’t know anything about being vegan — I could cook, though,” Jones said. “I started doing a ton of research. I started testing recipes.

“I ate lentils — just plain red lentils — for the first week.”

Her first cooking explorations were Japanese sweet potatoes and a vegan version of beef Stroganoff.

“That’s when I learned, when the recipe says use coconut milk for a savory dish, don’t do it. Because you will always taste the coconut,” she said. “It’s learning the tricks.”

After being vegan for 30 days, Jones was getting out of bed with no problems and her inflammation had dramatically decreased.

“I got off all of my medications,” she said. “After three months, I balanced my hormones, my hair grew back.

“I felt amazing,” Jones said. “And I did all of that with diet.”

She felt a calling to share her experience and cooking with others.

She earned some certifications and started “private cheffing” for some celebrities.

Jones would only name drop one.

“Peggy Lipton — RIP, loved her,” she said of “The Mod Squad” and “Twin Peaks” actress who died in 2019. “She was my very first client.”

Jones next expanded into yoga and meditation, and started doing retreats, complete with cooking.

“So I have the whole mind-body-wellness going on,” she said.

Jones has created social media shows, including “Starving and Single” and has done live cooking demonstrations. SolFood Collective, the kitchen, opened in January.

She moved back to this area in August 2020, on a Friday. She started “cheffing” and delivering meals the next Monday.

It almost immediately became overwhelming, trying to group orders and cook so many different items, then deliver.

A friend suggested that she find a kitchen and “mass produce” her menu. As the idea started to form, Jones was told about a space in Perrysburg.

“That’s how I got my kitchen. I still get teary about it,” she said. “It was the phone call that changed my life.”

SolFood Collective orders are taken online on Fridays, with pickup on Tuesdays at her kitchen at 119 W. Second St., tucked in the back of the building.

Jones also has a selection of offerings on Thursdays for the farmers markets downtown that run through Oct. 13.

She’s at capacity, which is about 25 orders, almost every week.

Her mom, Susan, is Jones’ right-hand help in the kitchen, washing dishes and getting “ServSafe” training.

Jones, who lives in Monroe, Michigan, also does a show on WTOL-TV, cooking and talking about a vegan lifestyle. Her next step is to open a wellness center.

Her life is incredibly busy, as a one-woman kitchen operator with websites and social media to constantly update. But you won’t taste commotion in the cooking.

“Kitchens tend to have a lot of chaos, a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress — depending on the kitchen, a lot of negativity. And that gets transferred into the food,” Jones said. “For me, it’s important to create a little zen den in here.

“I put on my crystal bowls, chakra radio and really put out a lot of healing. … I want people to know that I’m cooking mindfully. You have to eat mindfully. You have to cook mindfully, and be appreciative of the food that we have, and that I’m able to do this for people.”

Vegan Elote

Ingredients

4 ears corn on the cob (shucked)

1/4 cup vegan butter

1/2 cup vegan sour cream

12 cup vegan mayonnaise

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 limes, juiced

1/2 cup crumbled vegan feta, optional

Directions

Boil corn in a large pot for 3 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Pat corn dry with a paper towel.

Coat the corn with butter.

Cook the corn on the grill until it has light charring.

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, mayo, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, chili powder, paprika and salt.

Spread the cream mixture over the cooked corn and garnish with vegan feta cheese.