This next Chef I am both excited and sad to blog about. This man unfortunately lived through the time where African Americans (Blacks) were enslaved and human trafficked for purposes that are inhumane. This blog isn’t about slavery or the mistreatment of blacks in this country. We are all well aware of that, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. This is about Chef Heming’s contributions to the culinary world as he had to be amongst the first to dawn this industry of work.
He had an amazing culianary career. He was trained as a chef in Paris, France; where he learned French cusine and pastry. Back in the United States he worked as President Thomas Jefferson’s head chef and was only paid 4 dollar an hour. Through his experiences with Jefferson he had learned that slavery was abolished and negotiated his freedom by training a replacement chef, who happened to be his brother.
There is very limited information about his actual culinary abilites. While there are no known recipes belonging to him there are reports that he was a master at Cakes. He would put cake batter into a pot with a bigger pot around it that had coals in it and he always knew when it take the cake out. (Of course, they didn’t have the luxury of a thermometer, so cooking back then required actual skill). People close to him said he cooked everything from souffles, to almond pudding, trifles, ficassee chicken and kidneys. Apparently he had a full kitchen staff and a huge fireplace from which he cooked and constructed hooks and cranes to lift and move kettles in and out of the makeshift oven. He sounds like he had multiple talents to me!
I really hate that there are no records of his actual recipes but I would like to think that for his time he was a pioneer. As a African American Chef this is my way of paying homage to the legacy and opportunities that he afforded other people of color.
In remembrance of James Hemings, I think it is only appropriate to tribute him with a modern day cake in the pot known today as mug cakes. See this recipe I found on Pinterest for a Strawberries and Cream Mug Cake.
Strawberries & Cream Mug Cake
Adapted from Stacy Miller
2 tablespoons strawberry yogurt, well stirred
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream for serving
1. Coat the inside of the mug lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Mix the egg, yogurt, vegetable oil, baking powder, extract, sugar and flour in a small bowl until completely smooth.
3. Fill the mug to halfway full and place it in the microwave. Bake it for 3 to 4 mintues, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Top with strawberries and whipped cream and serve.