Born and raised in beautiful northern Michigan, Jennifer Masley came into the world with passion and competitiveness running through her veins. These qualities have helped her raise two children, race triathlons, start a personal training business and pursue her passion for food, the environment and people by creating ways to make our food system better — on both a personal a societal level. From creating edible school gardens to starting an organic food business, Jennifer is having an impact on the industry. We are more than honored that she has chosen to call Nashville her new home and to bring her knowledge and passion to our community. Read on to learn about Jennifer’s current gigs at Saffire, EiO & THE HIVE and on Acme Radio.
Recently, you were named managing partner at Saffire. Can you tell us what you bring to the 16-year-old Franklin restaurant?
I bring passion and work ethic to every project that I am involved in, and in this case it’s dusting off a gem. I have put together a like-minded and talented team who have the dedication to deliver consistently compelling local food and genuine hospitality. Since my investment in January, I’ve updated the interior of the space to reflect our more modern and local approach to our food. Chef Michael Martin and I are currently working on the final edits for our new menu at the #newfire as we affectionately refer to it. It’s been very exciting to watch this group come together and execute a vision while maintaining the unpretentious comfort that was created by Tom Morales.
What can we expect from the soon-to-open EiO & THE HIVE?
I have put my heart and soul into this project, and I am beyond excited to open our doors. You can expect that what we profess is what we deliver 100% of the time, with 100% transparency. We are thrilled to be delivering legitimate locally sourced, organically raised and approachable food in a modern space that is designed to cultivate community. Chef Dale Levitski has done a phenomenal job with our menu and will be leading the team in the kitchen. We have an exciting coffee bar and cocktail program. Our organic cocktails are mixed with our fresh juices, and we have local beers and kombuchas on tap. Our juice and blends menu is tried-and-true, pulling favorites from my Michigan-based juice bar, Sip. Equally as exciting, we are in the process of designing and planting the EiO Farm adjacent to the restaurant on 54th, where we’ll be growing our own produce, and raising our bees and chickens. Chuck Cinelli of Coco’s Italian Market owns the land and has graciously offered it to us!
What is the mission of the restaurant?
Our mission is to deliver a diverse culinary experience with real community food in a space that cultivates community.
Tell us about the name.
EiO is a bit of a double entendre, “everything is organic” and ironically e-i-e-i-o, Old McDonald had a … The Hive is our community — a reference to bees and how they live in an intricately woven system, where there is a division of labor and every role must be carried out for the hive to thrive, and be healthy and happy.
On Acme Radio’s The Hive Hour, you focus on food justice and politics, local farming and sustainability, and overall mental and physical fitness. How do you select which folks join you on the show?
The Hive Hour has been a valuable relationship-building experience, and I’m fortunate to be a part of the team. I find many of my guests through daily conversation and connection within existing relationships. If there’s a compelling story that fits with the parameters of the show, I want to talk about it!
Why is transparency so important in today’s world of food?
We could talk about this for days! With the very loose criterion around our food system and amount of disease we are experiencing, transparency is the key to survival at this point. Knowledge is power.
Your business motto is one body* one life. Can you tell us how you developed this mindset?
I’ve experienced a lot of life in 47 years, and have watched some of the people I’ve loved most leave this world far too soon. We can replace a lot of things, but we only have one body to carry us through, and there’s nothing better than feeling strong and healthy on the adventure.
What goals do you have for yourself in the next five years?
Too many, probably! I’m a workaholic and love to see ideas put into action. Along with the restaurants and juice bars, I am working on growing my energy bar company and introducing more real, healthy, organic snack foods into the market, locally. The need for healthy convenience foods is not going away, and the local food movement is where my heart is. The Hive Hour on Acme Radio is a platform for education and awareness, and I look forward to putting more time and energy into developing my show and building a broader audience. Again, knowledge is power.
What is one ingredient we can always find in your kitchen?
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
What restaurant is at the top of your must-try list?
I’ve been dying to try Tánsuŏ. I’ve heard and read great reviews.
Is there a hidden culinary gem in Nashville that we must know about?
If you haven’t tried Fin & Pearl, you’re missing out. The level of sophistication, from the sustainability efforts, to the decor, to the menu is really amazing.
What do you think distinguishes Nashville and its culinary scene from other Southern cities?
Being relatively new to the South, and based on my experiences, Nashville attracts ultra passionate and collaborative people who want to see the city evolve in a meaningful way — from the food to preserving its history. It’s what I love most about living here: the people and their intentionality.
What is the most memorable meal you have had?
Chez Panisse. I am a huge fan of Alice Waters, and the first time I dined at her restaurant was magical. Her dedication to sustainability, local food systems and the slow food movement has been incredibly inspiring to me.
What is the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?
My first landlord, who quickly became a mentor, looked at me one day and said, “Jennifer, I’m about to give you a piece of advice that will help you grow into what I know you are capable of: Get out of your own way.” It took me a while to really understand what he was saying, and when it finally clicked, it was life-changing.
What books can be found on your bedside table?
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family, and friends?
Vegetables, the outdoors/nature and my phone.
Thank you to Jennifer for answering our burning questions, and a special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s gorgeous photos!
Debra Philpot, this month’s FACE of TriStar, was touched by neurological disease at the age of 8 years old, when she lost her father to a brain tumor. Today, that experience and her passion for helping others drives her work and benefits patients across the Southeast. Read her inspiring story!