Friday, April 6, 2012

Take Five with Chez Yasmine's Jihed Chehimi

Chez Yasmine is one of Penn's latest food carts to hit the scene, with its grand opening about five months ago. The cart serves up gourmet sandwiches, soups, and salads at its location at 37th and Spruce. There's no doubt that business is thriving; even with two people working inside the cart (owner Jihed Chehimi and his partner-in-crime Jeannine), the line was consistently 10-15 people long while I was there. While juggling baguettes of bread, a sizzling pan of mushrooms, and bowls of couscous, the ever-friendly Jihed shared his thoughts during a busy (as usual) lunch hour.

NW: What did you do before Chez Yasmine came to fruition?
JC: I have a PhD in Viral Immunology. After twelve years at the Wistar Institute [at the University of Pennsylvania], I was burnt out from research and wanted to do something different.

NW: How did you create Chez Yasmine's menu?
JC: The menu reflects my life: my work, my travel (from the streets of Paris' Latin Quarter to the souks of Tunis and Ancient Carthage to the tiny roads of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old City), and where I grew up (Tunisia, in North Africa).

NW: What's the story behind some of the different menu item names?
JC: There's a lot! I worked at Wistar for a long time; the sandwich [filled with brie, sautéed mushrooms, avocado, basil/walnut pesto, and herbes de Provence] is named in honor of the first independent nonprofit biomedical research Institute in the country. The quinoa salad is also known as "The Gretchen," who is a regular visitor at Chez Yasmine. And the name Chez Yasmine itself? It's for a young Swedish girl born in Philadelphia... my daughter.

NW: What's your cooking philosophy?
JC: I want everything I make and serve to be healthy. We always give a bottle of water and a piece of fruit with every option on Chez Yasmine's menu. Also, I always want my food to be different; it should be food that you want to eat at home.

NW: What's the must-try dish on your menu?
JC: People always order the Swedish Salmon Smörgås (smoked salmon, cucumber, radishes, hard-boiled egg, dill, lemon, capers and a sprinkle of caviar, best served on rye or pumpernickel bread). A personal favorite is the Tunisian Sandwich (dolphin-safe albacore tuna, hard-boiled egg, tomato, green pepper, cucumber, olives, mint, parsley, and a dressing of lemon juice & extra virgin olive oil with spicy harissa): it was a childhood meal.

Check out Chez Yasmine's website here!


  1. The food is delicious. The freshness of the ingredients hits you in the face at the first bite. The darling of Spruce street, and to my opinion, a unique food cart with a unique menu. UL (CHOP)

  2. I just finished the "Nikki" from here and it is delish! The bread is fresh as are all the ingredients and it has just the right amount of caviar to make it delectable. I only wish they were closer to my job because now I am going to have to travel to 37th and Spruce everyday!

  3. Chez Yasmine is changing the entire food trucking scene in University City. No more iceberg lettuce, no more sandwiches tasting the same or watery soups, no more junk. This cart is bringing smoked salmon, caviar, quinoa & kale, organic soups, french brie, sauteed mushrooms, delicious couscous, delicious freshly baked bread, fresh ingredients, Perrier, Honest tea, San Pellegrino and more. Complementary fruit and spring water with every meal (will cost you $1.30 at the WAWA). My favorite is the Tunisian sandwich, with spicy harissa. Second favorite, the Nikki (smoked salmon with caviar) and the rest of the menu. The quinoa salad (The Gretchen) is exquisite and the couscous, just delicious full of Mediterranean flavors. Well done



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