As a self-proclaimed ‘First Generation Northerner’, Tia Raiford's exploration of food began at a young age, as she cooked alongside her mother and grandmother. Born in Albany, New York, raised in Connecticut, growing up a daughter of a musician, disconnected from the heart of the 120-acre watermelon farm of her grandparents and ancestors. However, that culture, food, and the sense of community are reminiscent of the traditions of Wetumpka, Eclectic and Tuskegee, Alabama, and the deep connection to food and farming from Alabama her family carried north during the Great Migration has manifested her passion and commitment to teaching the importance of health benefits and importance of the connection between food and the human experience throughout her career.
Tia, an alumni of The Culinary Institute of America, where she met her husband Matthew, has cooked in some of the country’s top kitchens, including New York City’s Oceana and Gramercy Tavern, leading to a highpoint role in her career as Senior Executive Chef at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. In 2006, she moved to Philadelphia to serve as the Campus Executive Chef at the University of Pennsylvania, where she lived and immersed herself in the Philadelphia community for over a decade.
This move ultimately led her to a career-changing role, building culinary and educational programs and experiences under the guidance of the USDA’s National School Lunch Program as Culinary Director for Vetri Community Partnership, led by James Beard Award recipient Chef Marc Vetri. During her time as Culinary Director for Elior North America’s K-12 division, Tia was able to impact over 100,000 students across the country by creating culinary programs, changing the face of school lunch from within, to bring culturally authentic meals to students to school lunch, mission focused that all children, regardless of their backgrounds have great meals.
Tia and Matthew married in 2021, and started their business Strong Roots 9, which is located on Gilliard Farms, a 50-acre Centennial Georgia farm that has been in Matthew's family since 1874.
Strong Roots 9 is the first wellness omni brand for black and brown people. As stewards of 50 acres purchased by Jupiter in 1874, we grow, cultivate and curate products, services and experiences that nourish the body, mind and soul.