A story of faith — a talk with
Rev. Dr. Martha A. Lewis

Last updated on July 3rd, 2018 at 10:46 am

Rev. Dr. Martha A Lewis

A gift of service defines the attitude of one who believes: “Don’t let anyone stop you from reaching your goal.”

Rev. Dr. Martha A. Lewis is undeniably a ‘trailblazer,’ even though she would say that is not what she intended to be. Most recently she started out and completed an unfulfilled dream. She enrolled in the University of Tennessee Culinary Institute under Chef Greg Eisele, executive chef, P.P.D. Culinary Director, C.C.C./PCII.

Rev. Dr. Lewis is a native of Chattanooga and has been a resident of Knoxville since 1985. Before coming to Knoxville, she traveled for 12 years in the United States Air Force with her husband, Rev. Dr. Jerry D. Lewis, J.D.

“My husband retired from TVA as an Equal Employment Opportunity Investigator,” she said, “and is also an attorney, a realtor, and a registered pharmacy technician.

“We have served as pastors, co-pastors and are currently Bible teachers/evangelists on Jesus First Ministry radio broadcast, Sundays at 9:30-10 am on WITA (1490 AM) in Knoxville.”

The Lewis founded the Jesus First Ministry in 1995. Dr. Lewis became a certified Evangelist through The Way of the Master School of Biblical Evangelism. Her instructors were TV evangelist teachers Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, and Mark Spence.

The Lewises have been Five-Fold Ministers (or Disciples) in Health-Medical-Healing Wellness Evangelism and Education since 1975, when Jesus Christ of Nazareth miraculously healed her husband. She said that she was also miraculously healed from blindness through the Word of God, prayer, and healing foods. The couple’s dossier of 40+ years shows that they have been very active in health and healing evangelism ministry in the Knoxville community, throughout the United States, and internationally. The couple was both awarded Doctors of Divinity degrees.

“I continue Biblical studies with well-known Bible universities and colleges as God directs,” she said.

Dr. Lewis says that she is often asked why she has so many degrees. She responds: “God knows I love to learn, and because I came from a family of 18 siblings, my parents could not afford to send me to college. God knows that I will share any gained knowledge with others and with children from all walks of life, religions, and backgrounds.”

She said the state of Tennessee graciously awarded her with the finances to attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to earn two degrees. But this time, she said, “I paid the tuition of $8,000—and it was well worth it.

“I am a life-long learner, and I take advantage of the opportunity to go to school and be among people of diverse backgrounds,” she said. “Everyone does not have this desire, but for those who do, God will do for them what He has done for me—provide a financial way. However, a person must be willing to deny the self and go through the process and give God the glory rather than self-glory. He will give you favor.”

Dr. Lewis is a multi-disciplinary teacher, counselor, social worker, FCS ‘retail human ecology home economist’ and minister so that she can accommodate people of all developmental ages and stages of growth, cultures and religions, educational levels, conditions, and issues. She said she is also a ‘behavioral/interpersonal sociology-social psychologist’ with a calling to teach holistic wellness and well being of the whole person. She has nine degrees, including a D.D., a Doctor of Natural Health, a Ph.D. in ‘holistic nutrition,’ and is a Certified Nutrition & Fitness Consultant with several other health credentials. She earned two degrees from the University of Tennessee: a Masters degree in Holistic Elementary and Middle School Teaching and Learning Education; and she was a non-traditional pioneer Ph.D. graduate of the ‘human ecology program’ (once ‘home economics’ and now ‘family consumer/retail sciences’), which trained students as ‘well being life science home economists/educators/consumer researchers/retailers.’ Her Ph.D. in human ecology emphasized sociology-social psychology, business, marketing, management, retailing, consumer home economics, and education subjects.

Rev. Dr. Martha A. Lewis enrolled in the University of Tennessee Culinary Institute under Chef Greg Eisele, executive chef, P.P.D. culinary director, C.C.C./PCII. It was time for her to embark on the fulfillment of a dream.

“The Lord told me that He wanted me to be a chef to go along with all the other degrees that He has bestowed upon me to do His ministries. So after retiring as an elementary and middle school teacher in 2011, I questioned whether or not I was too old or able to handle the stress and the pace of becoming a chef,” said Rev. Lewis.

“Once I made up my mind to obey God, then His Holy Spirit gave me the strength to finish the 12-week intensive program with honors.

As a student, Dr. Lewis planned and prepared culinary (cuisine) dishes for various banquets, and was even once assigned as ‘Student Chef of the Day’ at the UT Conference Center. The student ‘sous chefs’ and their teams assisted her.

“We prepared the culinary luncheon for the UTK chancellor, provost, faculty, department heads, and other staff,” said Lewis. Chef Eisele instructed Lewis to visit each table introduce herself and mingle with the guests, speaking freely about the food.

“Well, I did just that,” she said.

Dr. Lewis, a two time graduate of UTK, was also honored to be introduced to Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheeks. “This was an honor I will never forget,” said Dr. Lewis, “What a blessing!

“Culinary cooking is not traditional, country-style potatoes, beans, and roast beef or fried chicken cooking,” she said. “It is cooking with precision, time-tested recipes using serve-safe principles, mathematical measurements, serving and food cost control, planning, and learning various styles and methods of cooking from across the globe, including Asian, Mediterranean, Italian and African cooking, among others.

“Cuisine cooking also involves artistic plating, reasonable pricing that is not only delicious, but appealing to the eye.”

Dr. Lewis said the intensive 12-week program includes 24 modules: knife skills, food and bacteria safety, cooking methods and measuring, equipment and tools, recipes/ ‘mise en place,’ flavorings, stocks, sauces, soups, vegetables/vegetarian cooking, fruits, salads/salad dressings, cheese, horsd’oeuvres and appetizers, meats, poultry, game meats, fish and shellfish, quick breads and custards, pies, pastry, cake decorating, yeast breads, alcohol, catering, international cuisines, catering project, food allergies and intolerances, dietary requests, business skills, behavioral analysis for working with teams and personalities, a research paper, and placement. She completed an internship with Benefits for Life. There she was taught to make dietary gluten free pastry and snack foods.

Dr. Lewis said one of the highlights of the program for her was when she served the Malaysian Banquet at the UTK Conference Center. Chef Greg allowed the students to cook one of their favorite cuisines. She chose to cook Mediterranean/Oriental stir fry with hoisin sauce in vegetables over rice, which was well received. She also served on a teacher appreciation banquet at the Heritage High School for teachers of the Family Consumer Sciences classroom and school staff. Additionally, Dr. Lewis enjoyed serving the same cuisine dishes at her graduation banquet and a subsequent church function. She said that she learned stir-fry cuisine cooking in Bangkok, Thailand, when her husband was stationed there in the late ‘70s. From that time, she has cooked cuisine stir fry dishes and fried wontons for her family and school children on special occasions.

Her pastor, Rev. Roxianne Sherles, and members of the Lomax Temple AME Zion Church were great supporters, she said, and attended most of the banquets. Though Rev. Sherles could not attend her graduation, Dr. Lewis said she was pleased that 13 church members were able to support her on that occasion. Dr. Lewis was also pleased that her former pastor and first lady, Rev. Dr. John and Alice Howell, were able to attend.

Dr. Lewis said that she does not allow anyone to stop her from accomplishing her goals, and she lets God fight her battles.

“Don’t let anyone stop you from reaching your goal,” she advised. “When they pick with you or laugh at you, then forgive them and watch them reap what they sowed. Never let people say you are too old. Old is a state of mind, and what affects the mind affects the body. God did not give any Christian the spirit of fear—but He gave them power, love, and a sound mind. Men and Women are living beyond 70 years old and still working because they have to work. So the accelerated certifiable culinary school at UTK is ideal for young and old.

“I will always remember and appreciate the journey that led me to becoming a certifiable culinary chef. My goal was to gain the experience I missed when the home economics curriculum was changed to human ecology then to FCS, which eliminated cooking. Completion of this training was the last leg of a long journey that started many years ago,” she said. “It enabled me to be certified by Serve Safe Association and to be a certified Culinary member of ACF (American Culinary Federation) who recognizes trained culinary chefs and certifies them. This was never offered in home economics or FCS human ecology.

“I hope what I have done will inspire someone else with a dream to trust God to complete their journey. My mission from God was to cut a clear enough trail so that anyone can follow. I thank God for using me to do so. I give Him the glory for His great works manifested through me to others,” she concluded.

Rev. Lewis recently graduated, becoming the first African American graduate of the U.T. Culinary Institute Program. Yes, she did exactly what she set out to do.

If you are interested in being a certifiable ‘culinary or cuisine chef’ or ‘culinary artist’ with UTK’s Culinary Program, you can contact Pam Quick at 865-974-0150 in the UT Professional Development Department.