CHEF TO OPEN WELLNESS CENTER IN MOSAIC DALLAS BUILDING
When Jacques Laventure looks back on his life, he said he can’t quite believe where it has taken him.
The 29-year-old first got his degree in accounting and had plans to eventually open a brokerage firm.The economic downturn in 2008 led him down a different path—then another and another.
Laventure reinvented himself multiple times over with an athletics apparel line, culinary school, and stints as a personal trainer.
He gained fame on MTV’s TV series, Snack-Off and was nicknamed, “The Naked Chef,” after he slipped his shirt off one time while cooking.
Laventure’s newest concept in Dallas packages his expertise in cooking and fitness in what he calls a “one-stop shop” for wellness.
The JOQ Wellness Center, tucked inside the ground level of the Mosaic Dallas building, will include a sit-down restaurant, fitness gym, event space, and more.
In July, Laventure also is planning to open a grab-and-go JOQ Cafe inside the LA Fitness in Lake Highlands.
He spoke recently about his new wellness center concept and why he chose Dallas as the first place to open the facility.
Q: Tell me about your philosophy with the JOQ Wellness Center. How is it set apart from other types of facilities?
A: J.O.Q. is a play on words to my name being Jacques and then the acronym “just outstanding quality.” Using the word, “outstanding,” and using the word, “quality.” is pretty much our mantra — not just doing things in the normal routine. So, having an outstanding day and making sure there’s quality service. So, really raising the bar for clients’ expectations.
Having a wellness center where you have a one-stop shop like a Wal-Mart. You come there, and you just get everything you need. I figure we’re evolving and we’re leaning toward wellness. Most places, you go into a gym, and you’re getting the physical part together, or you go to a yoga studio and you’re getting more of the spiritual part together, but is there a place where you can get physical, spiritual, food, camaraderie — all in one place?
“We want to create an atmosphere where you can meet new friends, get rid of barriers, work on meditation, and eat clean food, and not worry about ‘does this have cheese in it?’”
With wellness, it’s social and an environment that is created. Places kind of scale back on different things, but we want to create an atmosphere where you can meet new friends, get rid of barriers, work on meditation, and eat clean food, and not worry about does this have cheese in it? You aren’t really worried about it. You come here and we’ve exceeded your expectations on everything.
That’s where this place is going to be different because when you walk in the place, you’re going to have help [with] nutrition, we have personal trainers, I have an acupuncturist that’s going to be onsite, I’m having an M.D. onsite. So, we’re not going to send you off and say, ‘hey, go consult with your physician.’ No, we actually have a physician on site. That’s what’s different.
Q: Why did you choose Dallas to open your first JOQ Wellness Center, especially, since you have more of a following in other cities?
A: For so many different reasons. My guides lead me here. I was able to do it big here because the prices here are more affordable. The median income is there. This is the fastest-growing city. I mean there are so many opportunities that Dallas brings. With the spiritual wellness, especially the Christian community is really big here in Dallas or just Texas in its entirety.
So, there were just so many different factors and then also the demand for Caribbean or ethnic food is here —you don’t find it anywhere.
Q: What’s your philosophy toward the food you offer?
A: Haitian food is really simple. They don’t have a lot of different ingredients in it. It’s not off the wall, exotic foods. It’s very simple. So, I’m taking the Haitian culture — the food — and I’m just making a healthy twist because I’m a health enthusiast.
So, I’m keeping the cayenne peppers and the spice because it boosts the metabolism and I’m keeping the authenticity of everything’s fresh. We make everything. We make spices from scratch like grinding the cloves, the garlic, and parsley. Parsley’s really big. Instead of using a lot of butter from the French-influenced colonized country, I eliminate the butters and use a vegan butter substitute or I use coconut oil.
Q: Where did you get the moniker, ‘The Naked Chef?’
A: How I was called The Naked Chef was because of my style of cooking and how I wear my apron and what I’m about. There was one time in LA, it got extremely hot, so I took my shirt off and I started cooking and entertaining people. They were so amazed on how fit I was. Most chefs, they’re out of shape. They were like, ‘you can cook and you’re fit.’ So, people were more interested in the look than the food and I was like ‘man, this is backwards.’
They were booking me. They didn’t care about the food and didn’t care about anything, so I was like, ‘man, I’m never wearing a shirt again.’ So, it just evolved and evolved. I mean, in the beginning, wrong organizations and wrong companies were hiring me, but I said ‘hey, listen as long as the name is getting out there.’ And it has evolved. [Now], the right people are hiring me. Like the vegan community, when they understand naked with the naked food meaning it’s all raw, no added ingredients … That community is the one I wanted to attract and that’s the community that gets it. The other ones [would say]: ‘man, I thought you were completely nude.’ And I’m like ‘would you really want me to be cooking for you nude?’ It’s all worked out to where it’s supposed to be.
I mean, I still get booked. I’m literally on a plane every month for a naked chef event or speaking engagement just because it draws people in. So, when they sit down in front of me and I talk, they are blown away because they didn’t think they’d really be learning something. So, I feel like I have a moral obligation since I can capture people as an audience, being able to educate them while I have their attention.
“People are so used to the same boring chef demonstrations with no personality, no engagement, (the) same boring experience and I want to push the envelope.”
I’m going to consistently brand it because it grabs people’s attention. People are so used to the same boring chef demonstrations with no personality, no engagement, (the) same boring experience, and I want to push the envelope.
Q: How do you juggle all these different projects?
A: I meditate a lot so that helps, but my motivation is how can I make an impact in this world? So, every single day I’m motivated to keep getting more involved in projects because I feel that I’m helping people.
Q: Where do you call home?
A: It’s been something I’ve been dealing with for quite some time because I’ve left home for so long where my consciousness or even my development now is different from when I left. I’m not the same person, I’ve evolved so many different times. Every city, I’ve adapted and I learn from.
Even being here, this is my last year in the 20s. I turn 30 in November and so even with that, I left New York almost eight years ago and I lived in Miami, [and] lived in Chicago for a year. I did Spain for a couple months and [Dallas] for six months.
Home, I’m still discovering that. I really love California, Chicago is too cold, Miami gets too muggy, and it rains all the time. I don’t know. I’ll figure it out.
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