RECORDED 3/10/17: I loved talking with my friend and award-winning author Adrian Miller about his second book: The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: African-Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washingtons to the Obamas. You can listen to the interview here or download the episode from itunes. -Heidi Durrow
James Beard award–winning author Adrian Miller vividly tells the stories of the African Americans who worked in the presidential food service as chefs, personal cooks, butlers, stewards, and servers for every First Family since George and Martha Washington. Miller brings together the names and words of more than 150 black men and women who played remarkable roles in unforgettable events in the nation’s history. Daisy McAfee Bonner, for example, FDR’s cook at his Warm Springs retreat, described the president’s final day on earth in 1945; he was struck down just as his lunchtime cheese souffle emerged from the oven. Sorrowfully, but with a cook’s pride, she recalled, “He never ate that souffle, but it never fell until the minute he died.”
A treasury of information about cooking techniques and equipment, the book includes twenty recipes for which black chefs were celebrated. From Samuel Fraunces’s “onions done in the Brazilian way” for George Washington to Zephyr Wright’s popovers, beloved by LBJ’s family, Miller highlights African Americans’ contributions to our shared American foodways. Surveying the labor of enslaved people during the antebellum period and the gradual opening of employment after Emancipation, Miller highlights how food-related work slowly became professionalized and the important part African Americans played in that process. His chronicle of the daily table in the White House proclaims a fascinating new American story.
Adrian Miller takes readers on a journey through the stories of African American men and women who have cooked, shopped, and prepared drinks for U.S. presidents through American history. By putting the largely forgotten stories of these men and women together, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet restores to their careers the high profile and respect they deserve.–Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt, author of A Mess of Greens
“For food history and presidential history buffs alike, both entertaining and illuminating.”
“An intriguing glimpse into the inner workings of the White House kitchen and the chefs who have made its wonderful cuisine possible.”–Library Journal
Adrian Miller details the many subtle and not-so-subtle contributions of African American culinary professionals to the food history of the White House. The people, black and white, in The President’s Kitchen Cabinet come across as real, engaged, and accurately placed in their own history, and the White House is refreshingly portrayed as a living institution that has changed dramatically over time.” –Leni Sorensen, founder-director of the Indigo House Culinary History and Rural Skills Center
“With humor and scholarship, Adrian Miller has written an essential and uplifting exposé, ensuring that another group of overlooked African American culinary professionals is remembered and celebrated for its contributions to American foodways.”
—Toni Tipton-Martin, author of The Jemima Code
“The President’s Kitchen Cabinet brings history alive by tracing the people and foods that appeared at White House events large and small, personal and formal. The research is impeccable, the stories are vivid and thrilling, and the food detailed and delicious. If you love the history of our nation’s first home as I do, you will devour this book.”
— Bill Yosses, former executive pastry chef at the White House and coauthor of The Perfect Finish
ADRIAN MILLER BIOGRAPHY
Adrian Miller is a graduate of Stanford University and Georgetown University Law School. After practicing law in Denver for several years, Adrian became a special assistant to President William Jefferson Clinton and the Deputy Director of the President’s Initiative for One America. The President’s Initiative for One America was the first free-standing White House office in history to examine and focus on closing the opportunity gaps that exist for minorities in this country. The One America office built on the foundation laid by the President’s Initiative on Race by promoting the President’s goals of educating the American public about race, and coordinating the work of the White House and federal agencies to carry out the President’s vision of One America.
After his White House stint, Adrian returned to Colorado and served as the General Counsel and Director of Outreach at the Bell Policy Center—a progressive think tank dedicated to making Colorado a state of opportunity for all. In 2007, Adrian became the Deputy Legislative Director for Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. By the end of Gov. Ritter’s first term, Adrian was a Senior Policy Analyst for Gov. Ritter where he handled homeland security, military and veterans’ issues. Adrian was also Governor Ritter’s point person on the Colorado Campaign to End Childhood Hunger which significantly increased participation in the summer food and school breakfast programs.
Adrian is currently the Executive Director of the Colorado Council of Churches. He is the first African American and the first layperson to hold that position.
Adrian is also a culinary historian and a certified barbecue judge who has lectured around the country on such topics as: Black Chefs in the White House, chicken and waffles, hot sauce, kosher soul food, red drinks, soda pop, and soul food. Adrian’s book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time was published by the University of North Carolina Press in August 2013. Soul Food won the 2014 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship. His next book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas will be published on President’s Day, February 20, 2017.