A chef from St. Vincent by way of Brooklyn seeks to lend a helping hand
If the food elevates the The Food Sermon, Williams certainly does as well. Described perhaps a bit unfairly by one writer as “a theology school dropout” he works to serve the soul as much as the stomach. His food gathers a community. Like so many of us, when faced with the influence of the pandemic on the island communities, he wanted to help. “I heard from a friend that I communicate with back and forth on Instagram, and she went to visit a shelter, and the men that were there, she could tell, they were sad, maybe their spirits were a little broken. And she just wanted to do something special for them.”
The first thought was to duplicate The Food Sermon model in Kingstown: to create a catering kitchen offering meals free to families in need. As in Brooklyn, it would serve the heart as much as the stomach, “to bring awareness, and help, and a little hope.” He says, “the idea is that people understand that they’re not forgotten about. That’s the first step. And that’s the gist of what we’re planning to do.”
That first idea—going all in—he admits “may have been a little too ambitious.” This in part because, given travel restrictions, he would have to do it largely from his home in the US. “I don’t want to be hijacked by my own ideas,” though increasingly it seemed that risk was there. “And you can still help without doing all of that, and actually make the funds go a little further.”
He partnered with Sid Murphy, owner of Oleander, a restaurant in Kingstown. They were soon joined by other local chefs and friends. Once the funding is in place, and travel becomes more tenable, perhaps as early as this spring, they will begin to offer meals out of existing kitchens on St. Vincent. He says, “There will be two phases. There will be opportunities for individuals to come and pick up food. Then, depending on the location, we can go take food to them.”
”It won’t be a game changer,” he says, “at least not initially.” He knows that so many have done so much. Some relief efforts at the time of the volcano that produced thousands of meals a day. That was important at the time. But William’s project is a different model, perhaps based in a different reason for being. The food will be better, given that it will be produced in smaller batches with greater care. It will draw on a wider range of ingredients. And it will be personal. Williams will do outreach, meeting with young people, and mentoring them to do the things they dream of doing. If that’s cooking, so much the better.
At home Williams is looking to restart The Food Sermon, which had to be shuttered due to the pandemic. He’s also putting the finishing touches on a book for Phaidon Press, The Caribbean Cookbook. And, within the coming months, he’s looking forward to getting back to the island and cooking for people.