When Jeremy Jones opened Uncooked in the West Loop with his mom and wife in the middle of the pandemic, they really weren’t sure if they would make it. Located on Carpenter Street, a block from the now-empty Google headquarters in the West Loop, where foot traffic has been decimated by the pandemic, the future of their grab-and-go, plant-based restaurant was precarious.

Now five months after their July opening, Jones and his family have been pleasantly surprised by the support of the West Loop neighborhood. They just signed a lease for a second location in Bucktown, across the street from a Lululemon that’s scheduled to open at 1616 North Damen in December or January 2021. And over time, Jones hopes to expand to more locations in Chicago, including food deserts that haven’t always had access to affordable, fresh and healthy food. 

During our interview on Nov. 11, Jones personally greeted each customer by name as they came through his West Loop doors. “It’s a blessing for us that our concept was amenable to whatever this new normal looks like,” he said. “We want to make vegan food more accessible and package it in a way that’s both beautiful and inclusive.” 

Currently, Uncooked offers a four-mile delivery radius with delivery available through their app, where photos of all dishes and nutritional facts are available. About a third of orders right now are placed through the app, with customers opting for delivery or in-store pick-up. Uncooked is also available on all of the major third-party delivery platforms, including DoorDash and Caviar, although it’s best for the restaurant if you order directly from them.

Jeremy Jones posing outside of his restaurant, Uncooked. Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE
At Uncooked, all entrees are $12 or less. Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE

Cooking and food have always been a centerpiece of an African-American household and we should have more Black chefs and restaurateurs,” Jones said.

Jones found that many vegan restaurants either focus too much on the health benefits of bland food, or make vegan dishes that are so heavy and decadent, like burgers made from frozen faux meats slathered in vegan cheese, that they aren’t even healthy anymore. 

At Uncooked, all entrées are $12 or less. The kelp noodles seasoned with nutritional yeast to mimic the flavors or cacio e pepe (a traditional cheese and pepper pasta dish) and the rainbow-colored vegan sushi with sundried tomato paste, watermelon radish, Thai basil and pickled fresno chilies are outstanding. Even something as seemingly simple as an arugula salad is elevated with diced pickled beets and fluffy balls of almond mozzarella.

“We just wanted to make damn good food and smuggle all the other stuff in,” he said. “People aren’t coming to us because it’s vegan, they’re coming to us because they love the taste. Then they find out for themselves that the proof is in the pudding and they’re feeling better too.”

Jones grew up in Luxembourg, a small country next to Belgium, until he was 12. He then moved to Chicago, where he lived on the West Side and in Bronzeville.


Jones’s mom Carole started Chicago Raw in 2009, and he was heavily involved working 80 hours a week for the first three years. After that, he spent several years working in fitness, from being a personal trainer to managing a gym. At age 25, he left fitness and went into the manufacturing industry, doing corrugated (cardboard) sales.  

“I thought I would be in fitness my whole life,” he said. “Going into manufacturing was a big risk for me, but it taught me how wrong I was about a guy that looks and talks and walks like me being successful in corporate America. It was an opportunity to meet people who probably never interacted with somebody who looks like me. Barriers break down when you see people as human beings.”

It’s always been important to Jones that he’s able to serve others, both with nourishing food at Uncooked and also by giving back to his Chicago community. To that end, he and a couple of friends founded a year-long mentorship program this year for teens in underserved areas of the city. Chicago’s Next aims to help ambitious teens become leaders so they can build their communities up. 

“For a long time we’ve allowed external portrayals, and what parts of our culture were mass-producible and consumable, to predicate what we value and what our culture is,” Jones said. “The dream for a long time has been to ‘get out’ by any means necessary. Now we have an opportunity to reevaluate what really matters to us at an individual level and community level, and to ‘get back in’. To reinvest in our own selves, communities and people. If we can help mentor the next generation of leaders, it will have a residual impact.”

Jeremy Jones opened Uncooked in the West Loop with his mom and wife. Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE

The mentees at Chicago’s Next will choose a project, anything that’s of service to their community and aligns with their passions, whether that’s an art show or pop-up restaurant. Then, Jones and other mentors will be there to help guide them in how to run a business, ask for help and ask the right questions. 

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Jones said. “Cooking and food have always been a centerpiece of an African-American household and we should have more Black chefs and restaurateurs. I want to help make that happen.”

is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE.