Before the flavors of Joel Robuchon, Jean-Louis Palladin, or Paul Bocuse took American dining by storm, there was America’s first French Chef: An enslaved culinarian named James Hemings.
As Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved chef, Chef Hemings trained in France and cooked for diplomats, royalty, and high society on both sides of the Atlantic before negotiating his freedom in 1795. From there, he went on to travel and cook professionally, working in restaurants and taverns throughout the newly-mined United States, merging his classic French training with young America’s melting pot of African, Indigenous, and European flavors.
In acknowledgement of the immeasurable contributions the Black and Indigenous communities have made to the modern American foodscape, the James Beard Foundation has launched the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans, a new grant initiative to provide financial resources for food or beverage businesses that are majority-owned by Black or Indigenous individuals. The initiative is a component of the Open For Good campaign launched in April to rebuild an independent restaurant industry that is stronger, more equitable, more sustainable, and more resilient post-pandemic.
Matfer Bourgeat USA were early supporters of the James Beard Food and Beverage Relief Fund, and its ongoing Open for Good campaign. We are pleased to continue that support by pledging 1% of profits to this Investment Fund through the end of 2020.
As a company with French roots, we make this contribution in honor of great chefs like James Hemings, Edna Lewis, Leah Chase, and countless other BIPOC Americans that have brought French flavors and culinary techniques to the American palate ever since our nation’s founding.
You can learn more about the fund or make a donation here.