Culinary Historians of New York presents:

Wednesday, September 21, 2022, at 6:30 pm

“Beets are too old fashioned” Scholar’s Grant Recipient Leni Sorensen on Henry Orr a Black Caterer in Early Federal Washington, DC

Program Description


Using his skills as a noted and excellent “waiter/caterer,” Henry Orr supplied fine food and dining service for elite white families of Washington, DC, between 1816 and 1846, earning enough money to buy himself, his wife, and his children out of slavery. Leni Sorensen tells the story of Henry Orr, the historical milieu in which he lived, and an impressive but sobering view of one man’s culinary skills playing a life-affirming role in ways not often made so clear to the food historian. Her proposal to further her research into Orr’s life won her the Culinary Historians of New York Scholar’s Grant in 2021, an award supported by the Julia Child Foundation.

Leni Sorensen was born in California, was a folksinger and a member of the cast of the musical Hair, and at one time catered to movie crews and started a tamale business. She farmed for eight years in South Dakota, and after moving to Virginia she earned her MA/PhD in African American History and Culture from William & Mary. Now retired from six years as the African American Research Historian at Monticello, she lectures and writes on issues of food history and teaches rural life skills from her farmstead home in western Albemarle County, Virginia.  She has appeared in the documentary Soul Food Junkies, the PBS series A Taste of History, and the Netflix series High on the Hog. Learn more at

6:30: Sign in to Zoom
6:40: Presentation followed by general Q & A

The program is free to members, although advance registration is required. Please RSVP through Eventbrite and you will receive instructions on joining the Zoom meeting.
Nonmembers and guests are invited for $10.

Reminders will be sent on the day of the program, but if you miss the emails, you can access the meeting at the Eventbrite online event page once you register.