The President’s Kitchen Cabinet is a new book from a former adviser to Barack Obama that tells “The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas.”
The President of the United States is one of the most famous people in the world, and he or she is virtually guaranteed a place in history. And with the rise of the 24/7 media within the past few decades, it is easy to watch the everyday actions of the president anywhere and everywhere.
However, there are plenty of people that help the president complete his daily activities from the shadows. And for the first 20 or so presidents, the majority of these helpers were African Americans who went largely unnoticed.
That is, until now.
Back in February, Adrian Miller released a book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet, which details the lives and stories of the African Americans who have worked in presidential kitchens from the days of George Washington to Barack Obama.
The average U.S. kitchen has a few appliances, a small table, and around 25 feet of counter space, but it’s safe to say that the White House kitchen is a little bit bigger than that. Even in the early days of the White House, the kitchen was expected to feed hundreds of people, and this required a lot of servants, cooks, hired help, and slaves. To tell these stories, former White House adviser Miller decided to showcase them in a book that also highlighted the different leadership styles of all the presidents.
For example, according to the Philadelphia Tribune, Thomas Jefferson required his enslaved cooks to prepare only French cuisine. Abraham Lincoln’s cooks had to remind him to eat full balanced meals when his wife was away, Franklin Roosevelt’s staff had to prepare a specialty diet for his dog, and Dwight Eisenhower had to educate his cook on what exactly yogurt was.
In total, Miller was able to find 150 named African American kitchen helpers, including cooks, maids, and place setters — considering all the serveware, dinnerware, flatware, and drinkware needed to entertain diplomatic visitors, it was important for one specific person to keep tabs on setting the table properly for guests.
Of course, the White House kitchen has evolved with the country. Today, the tableware market alone is estimated to reach a $41 billion value by 2020, and modern White House cooks are esteemed culinary professionals at the top of their field. According to a report from The Washington Post, modern presidential cooks (officially known as the White House Executive Chef) earn between $80,000 and $100,000 per year.
The author of The President’s Kitchen Cabinet is also quick to point out that there are dozens of unnamed workers and slaves not listed in this count, which is the whole purpose of the new book.
As Miller writes in the book’s introduction, he wanted to shine a light on these previously unknown people through giving “glimpses of their lives by way of incomplete name references, quick anecdotes, praises from satisfied diners, and pictures without captions.”
With this in mind, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet is a cultural tradition unearthed in the tastiest fashion.