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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Serving Up Fresh Food and More at Tree of Life Café

Apr 29, 2019 11:00AM ● By Enjoy Magazine

Growing Strong

May 2019
Story by John Dillion
Photos by Rhonna Torres

Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.

~ John Wesley

ONE CAFE in Fresno has been growing strong, exploring its roots and helping its community for three years.

Tree of Life Café specializes in what its owners call San Joaquin cuisine, and they want to open their doors to all people in the Valley.

“We are known for serving healthy food,” said Carolyn Ocheltree, an owner of the restaurant, “but we want people to know that we have all kinds of treats.” While the restaurant promotes vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free food, their main focus is fresh farm-to-table ingredients.

Bringing people together is the main goal of the restaurant and they want to offer food that most people in Fresno will enjoy. Their menu offers everything from Hispanic-inspired dishes to a Thai quinoa stir-fry.

The café also boasts a quarter-pound Farm-To-Table Burger which uses local ingredients directly provided by farms and farmers markets.

“We’re proud of our town,” said Ocheltree. “Everything in the café has been made in Fresno, born in Fresno or is a part of Fresno.” The tables and wall ornaments are made from repurposed barn wood and books from local authors decorate the restaurant.

Tree of Life runs by using a message of positive community engagement. The business model is considered a social enterprise and the owners work with Fresno Pacific University’s Center for Community Transformation and its various initiatives to give back to the city.

Namely, Ocheltree participates in Spark Tank Pitch Fest, a low-impact and much less intense version of the TV show “Shark Tank.” Entrepreneurs with a completed business plan submit their proposal to the event and pitch it to community leaders, who may award a prize of up to $6,000.

Fresno Pacific’s initiatives also help with employment opportunities. The university reaches out to povertystricken communities and connects potential employees with employers. Many applicants suffer from addiction or have a criminal record. According to the 2019 retrospective from the Center for Community Transformation, “the enterprises we awarded in the Spark Tank have in the last 12 months generated $1.2 million in revenue and hired 1,223 people, many with barriers.”

Ocheltree believes in breaking a cycle of poverty and addiction that she says goes hand in hand. 

“Something that breaks the cycle is a strong, steady job,” said Ocheltree. “We help people re-establish an identity of dignity and responsibility.” 

The Fresno Chamber of Commerce and the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce count Tree of Life amongst their ranks. The café also recently worked with the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce with a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. Ocheltree’s husband, a certified public accountant in Fresno and small business proponent, helps new businesses begin their plans and establish their books.

Ocheltree takes inspiration from her husband’s grandparents. She remembers them as people who took pride in helping people. “They volunteered as house parents at a shelter for women who experienced domestic abuse,” said Ocheltree. Their efforts to give back also stretched to the Fresno Rescue Mission. She says she wants to live by the message that drove them.

“Keep going,” Ocheltree said. “Even when you don’t know what your direct impact is, just keep going.” Tree of Life moved from downtown to just off Blackstone and Herndon late last year and changed its hours. “We started doing lunch and dinner instead of breakfast, but we’re moving back to a breakfast and lunch menu,” said Ocheltree. “We’re really trying to encourage people to gather in the morning.”

A special breakfast item they’re excited to bring back is chilaquiles. It’s a traditional Mexican dish they prepare with tortilla chips topped with eggs, cheese and salsa. Tree of Life also offers monthly cooking classes based on the season.

“Even if you’re only in Fresno for the time it takes to drive through, we hope that if you eat at our cafe, you’ll know more about our city,” said Ocheltree. •

Tree of Life Café

6640 N. Blackstone Ave., Suite 106, Fresno

(559) 663-7776 •

Hours: 6 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday, 9 am to 2 pm

Saturday and Sunday; available for private events

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