For as long as the United States has had a president, there have been African-Americans cooking for the presidents and their families, staffs and guests. The stories of these chefs form the foundation of The President's Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washingtons to the Obamas, the newest book from author, food historian and Denverite Adrian Miller, which debuts today, February 20, on Amazon.com.
Miller, who won a James Beard Award for his last book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time, held a book-launch party at the History Colorado Center on Saturday, February 18, bringing together good food and presidential cooks to celebrate African-American contributions to culinary history.
The author presented recipes from The President's Kitchen Cabinet and introduced three guest speakers whose stories are included in the book. Senior Master Sergeant Wanda Joell was the first African-American woman to serve on Air Force One and worked for four presidents before retiring during President Barack Obama's second term; she was aboard Air Force One when President George W. Bush flew from Florida to Washington, D.C., immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Executive chef Charlie Redden was the first certified executive chef of the White House Culinary Specialist Program and served seven and a half years in the White House Mess, cooking everything from crab-stuffed filet mignon for guests of the president to late-night snacks of jerk chicken pita pizza. And student Kiana Farkash visited the White House and cooked with Michelle Obama after winning a Healthy Lunchtime Challenge competition, representing Colorado at the White House Kids’ State Dinner in 2014.
Miller's book includes stories from these three and many others, including a slave named Hercules owned by George Washington, who cooked for the president and was eventually freed and became a chef in Europe.
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Presidents' Day is the perfect time for the official launch of The President's Kitchen Cabinet, even more so because February is Black History Month; Library Journal named Miller's book one of "Fifty Books for February, Black History Month, and Beyond."
In addition to writing two books on American food history, Miller served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and as a senior policy analyst for Colorado governor Bill Ritter. He's currently the executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches. For more photos, see our complete slideshow of the book launch party.