The chef-owner of Roxx on Main in Martinez has pivoted the restaurant's business model to pick up and delivery only options. (Photo courtesy of Lesley Stiles)

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Lesley Stiles’ motto has always been “know where your food comes from.” A longtime advocate for organic, sustainable ingredients, the East Bay chef has built a career serving up healthy gourmet meals.

Her motto acquired new resonance in the age of coronavirus. As public fears around shopping for groceries and dining out brought an unexpected wave of food insecurity, Stiles went into action, transforming her Martinez eatery, Roxx on Main, from sit-down restaurant to top-drawer takeout. And although sales are still down from normal, business seems to be picking up (her prix fixe Easter dinner menu sold out within days).

A graduate of the California Culinary Academy with a specialty in French cuisine, Stiles list of credits includes such establishments as Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Stars in San Francisco and Tourelle in Lafayette. Catering, cooking classes and helping schools build sustainable gardens round out her schedule.

She purchased Roxx in the fall of 2018, and opened its doors in August 2019, turning a modest café into a full-service restaurant featuring locally sourced ingredients.

Lesley Stiles, executive chef and owner of Roxx on Main. (Photo courtesy of Lesley Stiles)

When the pandemic began, Stiles wasn’t sure whether she could keep the place open. But she saw there was a need.

“I knew I didn’t want to close, for many different reasons,” she said. “I know a ton of people who just do not cook; some of them eat out every single day. They were paralyzed when this began. And I felt like if we closed the doors, it could be a real challenge financially to get them back open.”

She also had employees she didn’t want to let go. 

“So I thought, ‘We’re going to keep the doors open, and we’ll do what we can.’ ”  

With a slightly reduced staff and simplified menu that changes weekly, the revamped Roxx is doing consistent business. During regular hours of operation Stiles whips up entrees, sandwiches, soups and desserts. And on Sunday, the eatery serves breakfast burritos and cocktails to go during the Martinez Farmers’ Market.

“People can come in and pick up, or have curbside so they don’t have to get out of the car — whatever their comfort level is,” she said. She also delivers to homes and businesses.

The change has been challenging, but her commitment to quality remains the same. On the morning we spoke, Stiles was headed to a farmers market to pick up Brentwood-grown olive oil she uses at Roxx. Her customers clearly appreciate her efforts.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the response,” said Stiles. “People are leaving notes, like ‘Thank you so much for being here.’ I’m going, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I’m just so grateful.

“We’re just going to keep the doors open. We’ll hang in there as long as we can, that’s for sure.”