Ramin Ganeshram on The General’s Cook in Philadelphia and New York: Hercules Posey, Chef at America’s First Table and Beyond

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Program Description

The story of Hercules, the enslaved chef to George Washington throughout Washington’s presidency, has long been known: how he established standards of gastronomic excellence for the First Table deemed essential for the fledgling nation and created a prototype for diplomatic dinners that endures today. Cooking for Washington in the cosmopolitan cauldron of Philadelphia, he encountered a city filled with free and entrepreneurial Blacks, and he eventually self-emancipated. But what became of him after that has been lost to history, until now. Ramin Ganeshram has discovered how he reemerged, now with the surname Posey, in New York City, where his skill as a chef helped him create a new life as a free man, embodying the foundational narrative of the United States.

Ramin Ganeshram is the Executive Director of the Westport Museum for History and Culture, where she has worked for more than a decade to unearth the story of Hercules Posey. Her book The General’s Cook is a novel based on his well-documented time in Philadelphia and as Washington’s enslaved chef. This talk will take Posey’s life through his death in 1812, incorporating information she has learned since the publication of the book about Posey’s life as a chef and member of the free Black community in New York.