Food Historian Adrian Miller Plans Presidents' Day Book Launch

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Author Adrian Miller demonstrated his skill as a culinary historian with his first book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine One Plate at a Time, which won a James Beard Foundation award in 2014 for best book in the Reference and Scholarship category. Since then, he's been researching and writing a new book that also delves into African-American contributions to American food history. The result of his effort is The President's Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families From the Washingtons to the Obamas, which is scheduled to be released on February 17, 2017 (that's Presidents' Day). To celebrate the release, Miller is planning a couple of events featuring good food, presidential chefs and a few friends in the Denver dining scene.

The first is a book launch party, scheduled for February 18, 2017 (potentially at History Colorado Center), with former White House chef Roland Mesnier (who served from 1979 to 2006) and several other chefs who are part of the story in The President's Kitchen Cabinet. Miller is selling VIP tickets and asking for donations and sponsorships to help bring his guests to town. Complete details for purchasing tickets and making donations can be found on Miller's Soul Food Scholar website, but early-bird discounts — which start at $75 for individuals and $125 for couples — are available, so check soon if you're interested. Guests can also attend for free (minus the VIP early entry, drink tickets and autographed book).

Miller is also planning a Presidential Soul Weekend from February 17-21, with several Denver restaurants serving re-creations of favorite dishes from presidents throughout history. The complete list is still in the works, but Miller says examples include venison sausage, a favorite of Lyndon Johnson's, at Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que. Other dishes that could pop up include George Washington's green peas, Thomas Jefferson's black-bean soup, Dwight Eisenhower's broiled trout, Ronald Reagan's mac and cheese and Harry Truman's Old Fashioned cocktail. The dishes will be served at the participating restaurants and will include information about the book, the recipe and the president represented; restaurants that wish to participate can contact Miller at adrian@adrianemiller.com. The book and the events are all intended to shed light on a little-known aspect of presidential history: that every administration from George Washington to Barack Obama has had a black chef on the staff.

The President's Kitchen Cabinet will be published by the University of North Carolina Press. Miller, who has himself served on a presidential staff (he worked in Bill Clinton's administration from 1999-2001 as deputy director of the President’s Initiative for One America), is currently working on a children's book with stories and illustrations about people of color who have worked in presidential kitchens.

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