Simple, Healthy and Delicious: Seasonal Cooking with Community Chef Tree Williams

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Just Food’s Community Food Education program has a wealth of resources for New Yorkers looking for inspiration to create simple, healthy--and of course--delicious seasonal meals. Join us for our monthly cooking series at Whole Foods, or check out a Community Chef in action at one of 24 markets in the City Farms Market Network. 

 Just Food trains Community Chefs to show people how to cook with local produce in fresh new ways. For Community Chef Tree Williams, this is the most important part of her job as an educator. Since 2007, Tree has been involved with the Community Food Education program, teaching people to cook with local food and connect them to available resources. She has been passionate about food since she was a young girl, and strongly believes in the importance of understanding food and its effect on the body. As a Just Food Community Chef, Tree shares her knowledge with New Yorkers at farmers’ markets, CSAs, and food pantries. In 2010, Tree began a Training of Trainers apprenticeship with Just Food and is now teaching other aspiring Community Chefs to facilitate workshops themselves.

Originally from Jamaica, Tree’s family had a big influence on her love of local food and cooking. Her father was a local advocate and started many community gardens in Jamaica. When the family moved to Queens, her exposure to local food continued, as the majority of her neighbors grew food in their backyards. When she was nine, Tree’s grandmother began to teach her to cook. “My grandmother was always focused on putting the best possible foods into the body,” Tree says, “I grew up exploring the kitchen and exploring healthy foods.” 

As a Community Chef, Tree gets to communicate to others what her grandmother taught her – a love of food and learning in the kitchen, as well as what food can bring to the community. As a student at The New School in the early 2000’s, Tree’s academic work focused on the black female body, but she gradually shifted her focus to study the power of food. “A lot of women have stopped cooking or even knowing how to cook. It is important to understand how to feed oneself and have control over the body.”

Tree’s family emphasized the importance of eating healthy at an early age; now she teaches other families to do the same. Tree has found inspiration from teaching women affordable ways to feed their children using local food, and has led workshops on cooking local for the whole family at health centers and at the Just Food Conference. “You can eat well and eat affordably; it feels good because you are providing health for your family,” she says.

“Many people feel as though they can’t cook,” Tree says of her cooking demos. “They can be very firm about how they perceive their limitations. To me, success is how they move past these limitations.” 

Beet Greens with Garlic
  • 1 bunch of beets with greens attached
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 leaves of sage
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Separate beet greens from roots
  2. Wash greens thoroughly
  3. Chop greens finely
  4. Mince 2 cloves of garlic
  5. Mince 4 leaves of sage
  6. Saute garlic for 10 seconds on a low flame
  7. Saute beet greens for 1-2 minutes to desired firmness
  8. Salt and Pepper to taste