James Hemings (1765-1801) was a chef de cuisine, trained in Paris, yet he was born into slavery and lived much of his life enslaved. His story is at once painful and triumphant, and his culinary legacy looms large.
James Beard was an American cook, cookbook author, teacher and television personality. A champion of American cuisine, Beard trained generations of professional chefs – much as Hemings did in the Monticello kitchen. Today, receiving a James Beard Award is the culinary equivalent to winning an Oscar.
Monticello is proud to welcome two James Beard award-winners to the Heritage Harvest Festival this year: Michael Twitty and Jeremiah Langhorne. Twitty, author of The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, is a renowned food writer, independent scholar and culinary historian who sits on the board of the James Hemings Foundation. Langhorne, chef and co-owner of The Dabney restaurant in Washington D.C., has earned a James Beard award and a Michelin Star for his unique mid-Atlantic cuisine. Like Hemings, Langhorne has fused tradition and innovation in his entirely wood-fire powered kitchen.
Discussion leader, author and food consultant Kevin West will lead a wide-ranging conversation on history’s role in the kitchen. How has Langhorne borrowed from tradition in reinvigorating American cuisine? How is Twitty inspired by the James Hemings’ legacy? And, in the spirit of Hemings and Beard, how are these two culinary icons working to move Southern cuisine forward?
Join us for this celebration of cooking past and present, in the shadow of Monticello’s famed first kitchen.
Culinary and Cultural Historian
Michael W. Twitty is a noted culinary and cultural historian who interprets the experiences of enslaved African Americans through food and its preparation. He created Afroculinaria.com, the first blog devoted to African American historic foodways and their legacy, and was honored by FirstWeFeast.com as one of twenty greatest food bloggers of all time. He has appeared on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern, Many Rivers to Cross with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, and has lectured to more than 250 groups, including Yale, Oxford and Carnegie Mellon Universities, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Twitty has been invited to speak around the world – his work has been featured in such publications as Ebony, The Guardian, Eater.com and NPR’s Codeswitch blog. A regular on NPR, Twitty has also been interviewed on the acclaimed food program, The Splendid Table.
Twitty has served as a judge for the James Beard Awards, is a Smith fellow with the Southern Foodways Alliance and is a TED fellow and speaker. He has been named one of “Fifty People Changing the South” by Southern Living and one of the “Five Cheftavists to Watch” by TakePart.Com. HarperCollins released his first major book in 2017: The Cooking Gene, which won the 2018 James Beard Award for best writing and book of the year.
Chef, Co-Owner of The Dabney
Jeremiah Langhorne is the chef and co-owner of The Dabney in Washington, D.C.
Langhorne’s first foray into the restaurant world was at a small Italian restaurant in his hometown of Charlottesville, VA. Watching the restaurant’s kitchen staff work on a new dish – a creative and spontaneous process – inspired Langhorne to seek out further learning opportunities. He began with an externship at the acclaimed OXO restaurant, where he learned under the classically trained English Chef John Haywood and soon became a part of the kitchen staff. By the time he left, Langhorne was executive sous chef.
In 2009 Langhorne moved south to stage at McCrady’s under Executive Chef Sean Brock. After completing a two-month stage at Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, Langhorne returned to McCrady’s to take over as sous chef. He was promoted to chef de cuisine in spring 2011. While at McCrady’s, Langhorne oversaw day-to-day operations and managed a staff of over 20 employees. He worked daily with Brock and local farmers and purveyors to craft each night’s menu out of the freshest and finest products.
Langhorne returned to the Mid-Atlantic area in 2013, relocating to Washington, D.C. to focus his efforts on opening his own restaurant and forging relationships with area farmers and purveyors. Nearly two years later, The Dabney opened in historic Blagden Alley in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood. At The Dabney, Langhorne celebrates his Mid-Atlantic roots, focusing on modern American food with strong regional and historic influences, while incorporating his interests in farming, charcuterie and foraging.
The Dabney received a Michelin star in Washington D.C.’s Michelin Guide in 2016 and 2017, in addition to being named a semi-finalist for the 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for Best New Restaurant. It was named one of Bon Appétit magazine’s 50 Best New Restaurants of 2016 as well as one of Food & Wine’s 2016 Restaurants of the Year. Langhorne recently received the 2018 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.
In December 2017 Langhorne and business partner Alex Zink opened The Dabney Cellar, a wine bar located in the basement beneath the restaurant.
Langhorne lives in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood with his wife, Jenny, and their dog, Ginger.
Photo: Obi Okolo