Chef Gina Capers-Willis of Forsyth Farmers’ Market brings flavors of the African diaspora to the Coastal Empire

Gina Capers-Willis is a Savannah-based chef who is steeped in the culinary traditions of the Gullah Geechee culture and community she was raised in. Self-taught, Capers-Willis draws upon the generations of culinary artists who came before her.

“Both of my parents were in the food industry. My mother taught culinary arts and home economics. My father was in the restaurant business. My grandparents had a restaurant club on Wilmington Island for 40 years. So it’s in me,” she said.

Capers-Willis got her start in the food industry some ten years ago when she was making what she calls “love cakes” for her then boyfriend for Valentine’s Day. She would post these love cakes on her social media profiles and, to her surprise, she started receiving messages from people who were interested in buying them.

“I was like, wait, you’re going to buy my food?” she said, noting that this was before foodie content became as big online as it is today.

From these humble beginnings, Capers-Willis’ career blossomed, leading to features in Bon Appetit and Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Magazine, and even television appearances on the Magnolia Network and an Emmy-nominated Food Network series. She is known for bringing the techniques and flavors of Gullah cuisine to the world and is committed to training up the next generation of Gullah Geechee chefs through her nonprofit, the Gullah Heritage Kitchen.

“I started the Gullah Heritage Kitchen because I wanted to leave a food legacy. I don’t have any children, but I do have a lot of recipes and techniques that I would like to teach to the future generation of Gullah Geechee chefs. I am noticing that people are saying ‘that’s a Lowcountry recipe’ — no, it’s a Gullah Geechee recipe. I just want more people who look like myself to have opportunities. I am creating a space for greater representation,” said Capers-Willis.

In addition to her nonprofit, she also offers a private chef service, which she chronicles online through her website She also hosts her own supper club, Grits and Gumbo Supper Club, about twice a year, featuring locally sourced produce and proteins for an authentic farm-to-table experience.

Chef Gina Capers-Willis of Forsyth Farmers’ Market brings flavors of the African diaspora to the Coastal Empire
Courtesy of Forsyth Farmers' Market

Most recently, Capers-Willis accepted a role with Forsyth Farmers’ Market as a health and equity promotions manager, overseeing community outreach initiatives that focus on educating Savannah residents and making healthy eating approachable, affordable and accessible.

“I’ve been with them for about five months now. . . I really get out there with the community. You meet so many different people and one thing that brings us together is food . . . the love of food, the memories,” she said. “Sometimes it could be a smell of something, and you’re like, ‘wait a minute, I remember that from my grandmother or my mom used to make that.’ So that’s one thing that bridges all groups together. But we also have to remember that everybody doesn’t have access to food. So that’s what’s passionate within me about joining the Forsyth Farmers’ Market. I can pull all of those things together.”

Forsyth Farmers’ Market works to promote a sustainable local food system that engages growers, producers and consumers with a particular focus on those with low access to fresh, affordable food. They accomplish this mission through community initiatives that seek to provide access and nutrition education to residents throughout the Coastal Empire. One such community initiative is A Taste of African Heritage.

Through a partnership with Oldways, a food and nutrition nonprofit that shares cultural food traditions to help people live healthier, happier lives, ATOAH is a series of free cooking classes that will engage the public in learning about the culinary traditions of the African diaspora. Capers-Willis will lead these courses along with Aja Embry, FFM’s director of community building, engaging attendees in a hands-on learning experience centered around foodstuffs from the African continent and the global community. The classes will focus on plant-based recipes.

click to enlarge Chef Gina Capers-Willis of Forsyth Farmers’ Market brings flavors of the African diaspora to the Coastal Empire
Courtesy of Forsyth Farmers' Market

“A Taste of African Heritage [will show] how you can have better meals that are not necessarily based upon fried chicken and fried pork chops. It’s a plant-based diet, which is a lot of what our ancestors ate. . . They really focus on the grains, the green parts . . . adding the different herbs and spices,” said Capers-Willis.

In previous ATOAH classes, participants learned about sweet potatoes and yams, and the difference between these root vegetables, incorporating them into date-sweetened smoothies and savory kale chowders. They also made plant-based crab cakes using oyster, lion’s mane and chestnut mushrooms. Though the courses focus on African culinary traditions, they make use of locally-sourced seasonal ingredients. The next class will zero in on loquats, or Japanese plums that are found in many backyards throughout Savannah.

“It’s just learning about stuff that’s right here that you probably wouldn’t take advantage of,” she said.

Chef Gina Capers-Willis of Forsyth Farmers’ Market brings flavors of the African diaspora to the Coastal Empire
Courtesy of Forsyth Farmers' Market

Each class will feature 20 to 25 participants, who will be split into groups to prepare different things. They will bring each component together at the end to enjoy as a communal dish. Capers-Willis encourages the public to come out and attend these classes.

“It’s just good to be part of the community. You get to meet people who you probably wouldn’t have met otherwise,” she said. “It’s good to know who’s in your community. You get to meet people. You get to have good food, and you get to learn something new.”

In addition to the ATOAH classes, Forsyth Farmers’ Market will soon host another opportunity for community members to connect around food. Their annual Farm-R-Que fundraiser will be held at the Old Dairy Farm at 2500 Tennessee Ave. on Sunday, April 28 from 4–7 p.m. Farm-R-Que is a fun, family-friendly cookout complete with food from local restaurants, a petting zoo, libations and a live band.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Capers-Willis. “We’ll have a good time.”

There are three ATOAH classes scheduled for the next few months. The first will take place Thursday, April 25, with the second on Thursday, May 30, and the last on Thursday, June 27. Interested participants can register for free on Eventbrite. More classes will be announced in the future. To learn more about ATOAH classes, visit

Chantel Britton

Chantel Britton is a compelling storyteller with an ever-growing curiosity. She's built a rewarding writing career for herself in addition to serving five years as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. She's an NPR nerd with a deep passion for all things travel, sustainable living and adventure. She...
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