Jessy’s Clean Meals
Chef Launches Food Service Following Battle With Addiction.
After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Cambridge in 2015, Yesenia “Jessy” Melo set out on a mission to help others start eating better. After she posted pictures on her social media of the meals she made, she was flooded with comments and questions. Melo got an idea.
She designed a meal prep program, trying out dishes on friends and family while still working full time as a chef. In 2019, she officially launched her business.
This summer, Melo is planning to move the meal prep service, Jessy’s Clean Meals, to the recently renovated Revolving Test Kitchen, a shared culinary work space in Lawrence. The move is intended to expand her business by adding more services and reaching a wider clientele.
Customers of Jessy’s Clean Meals can sign up weekly for meals or order for a month. Melo offers two different plans: Healthy Carbs, which includes whole grains, fresh vegetables and lean meats, and the Keto Friendly plan, which is more restrictive and recommended for customers wanting to limit their carb intake.
With a focus on clean eating, Melo’s cooking is Mediterranean-inspired, and she draws on her Hispanic heritage as she incorporates fresh and flavorful seasonings.
“That really made a difference in my food,” she says.
In the early days of her business, customers kept coming back for more. They began trying foods they typically had steered away from, drawn in by the way Melo prepared everything from mushrooms to eggplant.
“I was introducing them to a new way to eat their veggies,” she says.
Life should have been going well for Melo. But the young chef’s battle with alcoholism threatened to topple her business and her hopes of happiness.
As she sank deeper into her drinking, Melo began to lose customers as she failed to meet the weekly pickup deadline. She was forced to give up the commercial kitchen space she was renting in Methuen and began cooking out of her home.
“I was going through a crisis,” she says. “My business was struggling.”
In the spring of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the state, Melo’s fight against substance abuse hit rock bottom. She entered a treatment program and spent much of the past year “fixing herself.” She continues in recovery to work through the program and attend weekly meetings on Zoom.
“I got the help,” she says. “I seized the opportunity.”
Healthy once again, Melo is refocusing on her business. She created a website for Jessy’s Clean Meals, and she posts regularly on social media. Her service is dependable and stable. Clients are returning. She is ready to move into the test kitchen, which will give her access to a new set of resources to strengthen her business.
“I would never have done that without being sober,” she says.
Melo plans to bring in more staff once she’s operating out of the test kitchen. With a larger work space, she will be able to increase the number of customers she serves.
Melo wants to add breakfast to her menu, and would like to include a delivery option to help with expansion into other towns. She also envisions creating a delivery program for older adults and people who are housebound.
Through it all, Melo remains focused on sharing her journey and hopes her story will inspire others who are struggling to make changes in their lives.
“I want people to know the help is out there,” she says.