June 26: Thomas Craughwell, “Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee”

  • Wednesday, June 26th, 7:00 pm: Lecture: Thomas Craughwell, author of “Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brulee: How a Founding Father and his slave introduced French cuisine to America”

This culinary biography recounts the 1784 deal that Thomas Jefferson struck with his slaves, James Hemings. The founding father was traveling to Paris and wanted to bring James along “for a particular purpose”— to master the art of French cooking. In exchange for James’s cooperation, Jefferson would grant his freedom. 

Thus began one of the strangest partnerships in United States history. As Hemings apprenticed under master French chefs, Jefferson studied the cultivation of French crops (especially grapes for winemaking) so that they might be replicated in American agriculture. The two men returned home with such marvels as pasta, French fries, Champagne, macaroni and cheese, crème brûlée, and a host of other treats. This narrative history tells the story of their remarkable adventure—and even includes a few of their favorite recipes!