This was an evening of culinary art held in the Charleston Library by the Library Society. The talented Chef Kevin Mitchell gave us an interesting overview of his Master’s thesis from the University of Mississippi. The title of his thesis and presentation was “From Black Hands to White Mouths: Charleston’s freed and enslaved cooks and their influence on the food of the South”. He highlighted the famous slave chef, Nat Fuller, and Fuller’s two his assistant cooks, Dumpling and Toby. I also got the chance to learn about the essential skills it takes to prepare a large menu variety like the ‘Bachelor’s Feast’ Chef Fuller and his cooks prepared for their slave owner’s guests. Chef Mitchel recreated the Bachelor’s Feast for 80 participants in April of 2015 in Charleston.
Here’s a personal statement from his presentation about the exploration of his culinary journey:
“It’s said that food brings people together. This has certainly been the case for African Americans. Distinctive dishes and cooking styles played a central role in West and Central African societies, and enslaved Africans from these diverse regions brought these culinary traditions with them when they were forced to the Americas.Their African American descendants carried on many of these traditions, while also adapting to American ingredients and incorporating European and Native American cooking styles. Today, many recipes in African American households have been passed down from generation to generation. Based on these traditions and adaptations, black cooks made significant contributions to the culinary arts. From cooking for white elite families (as well as their own families) both during and after slavery; to preparing food in the kitchens of great hotels and railways across the country; to filling high positions in fine restaurants today—African American chefs shaped and continue to shape American cooking.”
The evening ended with wine and simple finger foods and more conversation about Chef’s Mitchell the presentation.