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From Rockport to Des Moines

R I Restaurant Flavors

February 13, 2020

Greater Des Moines (DSM) is where my dream came true. In September 2019, I opened my first restaurant, R I Restaurant in Windsor Heights, and realized a dream I’ve had since I started cooking in my teens. I am originally from Rockport, Massachusetts, a coastal tourist town about an hour from Boston. I grew up spending my days on the beach, and I always thought I would live near the ocean. So many people ask how I found myself in DSM, hundreds of miles away from an ocean. RI Restaurant Owners

My wife, Kathleen, is originally from DSM so I had visited several times over the years, and I started to see similarities between this Midwestern town and my hometown. Both are the types of places where everyone knows everyone, and the citizens are fiercely proud of where they are from. Rockport and DSM are both grounded in a rich history of feeding America. Iowa feeds the world as a leader in many agricultural products, but it also boasts diverse products from the many cultures that call Iowa home. Coastal Massachusetts is built on the fishermen that bring in glorious seafood that I have been cooking and eating almost straight out of the ocean since I was a kid. The love of food that I developed while fishing with my dad and cooking fresh, local seafood has only grown in since moving to DSM as I visited the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market and enjoyed local produce, herbs and meats.

I started to see the possibility of fulfilling my dream of a restaurant in DSM.

R I Restaurant Chef Jacob DemarsFinding Inspiration from Opportunity

One commonality between Rockport and DSM is the sense of opportunity, growth and entrepreneurship. Rockport is full of amazing artists that are sharing their creativity with the world, as well as many small businesses that draw large crowds to the coastal town during the summer months. These artists and small businesses are independent but also work together as a community to build something bigger than themselves. Like those artists, I want to share my creative culinary vision with my guests. They inspired in me the importance of achieving your dreams by working together. I see this same spirit of community in DSM with the many small businesses in the Historic East Village, the co-working spaces that facilitate growth in several industries and the growing culinary scene. Not only are these businesses trying to grow in their own right, but they are supporting their community through a multitude of nonprofits and community support organizations. Iowans, like my friends and family in Massachusetts, seem genuinely interested in trying new things and supporting people that are reaching for their dreams. 

Now I’m feeling like DSM is a place I can call home.

A Sense of Family

What really sealed the deal is the sense of family that is shared between Rockport and DSM. Whether you define family as your biological one or a family of friends, they are the people that help make your dreams come true. They listen to endless hours of ideas, taste test all kinds of creations (this is my wife’s favorite part), connect you to other people that can help with things like insurance, marketing, accounting, etc. They are the people that understand when you miss weddings and holidays because you are reaching for your dream. They love and support you no matter what. My family, both in Rockport and DSM, supports me more than I ever imagined.

I finally told Kathleen that we could move to DSM because I could see it as a place that I could call home and a place where I could realize my restaurant dream. Two years after moving, we opened R I Restaurant thanks to amazing support from our families and the community, as well as the amazing ingredients of the Northeast and Midwest. Even though I’m far from the ocean, I found countless commonalities between my hometown and DSM that made the move absolutely worth it.

Are you interested in moving to Greater Des Moines (DSM)? Relocation Packets offer information on everything from neighborhoods and shopping to parks and local attractions. Or, kick start your career by checking out the DSM USA Career Center. It has over 10,000 jobs listed!

Named as the #13 Best Place to Live in the U.S. and #7 Best City for Living the American Dream, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is the fastest growing metro in the Midwest. Learn more about what it’s like to live here

Jacob Demars

Jacob Demars is the executive chef and co-owner of R I Restaurant in Windsor Heights. The restaurant features a carefully curated menu showcasing flavors and techniques that embody Jacob's culinary journey from Rockport, Massachusetts to Iowa.