Behind Closed Doors: Deborah Williamson

Deborah Williamson, proprietor and creative behind the beloved restaurant James in Brooklyn, has long loved food. But when an autoimmune diagnosis crept up on her while training for the NYC marathon, she took a step back and applied a critical lens to understand what was nourishing her, and what wasn't. And then she set out to incorporate not only the foods to encourage her healing, but the practices as well. As you know by now, it's our favorite story; take a problem and unravel it to reveal its wisdom. Easier said than done, and even better when you pass your learnings on to others. Read on to discover all that nurtures her, including her everyday smoothie and what's in her fridge and cupboards. And if you're in the Brooklyn area, I can't recommend visiting her restaurant more. And please say hi for me.

What is your food philosophy?

I believe 90% of our health comes our food and environment and that eating well is the best investment you can make in your life. Several years ago I became gravely ill with an autoimmune condition that appeared out of thin air. I went from training for the NYC marathon to being hospitalized with an inexplicable illness for 9 days. That experience sent me on a path to heal and find what works for me. I discovered that I’m allergic to eggs and casein and I’m gluten intolerant. I changed my diet, dove into yoga, started meditating and with that process slowly everything changed. Since then, I avoid dairy, eggs, gluten and focus on a plant based diet supplemented with clean protein. I prefer non-alcoholic drinks and love CBD products from beverages to edibles. 


What's always in your fridge? 

Kale, lemon, apples, ginger, blueberries, a plethora of elixirs and tonics, collection of brewed teas (for my smoothies), elderberry tonic, Braggs vinegar and amino acids, kimchi, fermented and pickled vegetables, bone broth.

What’s always in your pantry?

Cacao, tocos, goji berries, olives, pepitas, custom salts (nettle, spruce, ramp), Brightland and the Pineapple Collective olive oil, Chinese herbs, spices, fennel seeds, sunflower seeds, turmeric powder, honey, CAP Matcha, Sun Potion adaptogens, mushroom powders and sparkling water.


Go-to meal that you make for yourself more often than not?

My Everyday Smoothie. I literally make some version of it almost every day. 


What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

Canelle et Vanille by Aran Goyoaga, Super Natural Simple by Heidi Swanson, Whole Food Cooking Everyday by Amy Chaplin, The Book of Greens by Jenn Louis and Gjelina by Travis Lett


 What do you turn to, to make you feel your best: food and all the other practices?

My week is packed with work but my routine incorporates nature, walks, sun, music, yoga, friends, laugher, plants and sleep. These are the things that nourish me. 


Favorite item on the menu at James?

Favorite bowl: kale, beet hummus, fennel, pickled radish, forbidden rice, olive oil poached chicken and miso turmeric vinaigrette.


Who is inspiring you in the food world right now?

Local farmers who continue to produce crops despite corporations buying up America’s farmland.  Voices of wisdom like Dr. Mark Hyman and Ron Finley plus innovators like Julie Elliot of In Fiore for her inspired tinctures and the folks at Rose Delights for their incredible pressed flower rosins. 


How do you end your day?

Generally later than I would like but always with a hot bath and magnesium salts. 


18 ozs liquid of choice (coconut water, nut milk or adaptogen tea)

1 T organic cacao powder

1 T tocos (rice bran soluble)

1 T vegan protein powder 

½ teaspoon chlorella

½ teaspoon spirulina

½ teaspoon lion’s mane or reishi powder

2 slices mango

1 banana

Handful of goji berries

1 teaspoon mct oil

16 ozs frozen blueberries

Handful (5-6 med leaves) kale or spinach


Feel free to mix it up with fruits, liquid and adaptogens to stay in sync with the seasons.



Add liquid to Vitamix, then fruit and dry ingredients to Vitamix.  

Blitz. Add greens (spinach, kale, etc). Blitz again. 

Add more liquid if needed.

Blitz on high for the texture you prefer. 



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