Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit
“The President’s Kitchen Cabinet” celebrates the legacy of African-American presidential chefs.
These fascinating people excelled at the awesome responsibility of nourishing our First Families. As both enslaved and free people, they were celebrated culinary artists in their time, family confidantes and, upon occasion, civil rights advocates.
Adrian Miller is an attorney, James Beard Award-winning food writer, and certified barbecue judge who lives in Denver. Miller is a former special assistant to President Bill Clinton. Miller is the current executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches.
The following is an interview with Miller.
What inspired you to write this book?
While writing “Soul Food,” my first book, I came across a few stories about African Americans cooking in the White House. The stories were so compelling that I knew I had to write further on this unexplored perspective on the American presidency.
Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?
Ralph Ellison, Calvin Trillin.
What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?
Giving name and paying tribute to these previously unheralded culinary professionals. I also loved reading historic newspapers in search of these stories.
What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?
The chapter on the future of African-American presidential chefs. I didn’t have access to any current White House chefs, so I had to rely on secondary sources to speculate about the future.
What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?
That every single president has had an African-American cooking for them in some capacity.
What project are you working on next?
I’m on a history of African-American barbecue culture titled “Black Smoke.” It’s such a shame that barbecue stories in contemporary media rarely mentions African Americans.