Did you know that every U.S. president, from Washington to Obama, has had African Americans cooking in their kitchen--many times serving as the head chef? That's right, and we have their stories and their recipes! We want to share these with others in an hour-long television documentary film called "The President's Kitchen Cabinet" (TPKC). The story of these dynamic chefs is a complex and thrilling aspect of American history that has been largely ignored--until now.
TPKC provides a groundbreaking, entertaining and detailed look at these chefs, their intricate personal and professional relationships with the presidents, the first families, their cooking equipment and techniques, and the mouth-watering recipes for which they were celebrated. After watching TPKC, you'll discover that these cooks were not only culinary artists, but they also served our presidents as personal confidantes, informal policy advisors, civil rights advocates and family friends. Given their amazing experiences, African American presidential chefs have a unique perspective on the American presidency and the White House that remains undocumented. Their story needs to be told, and we can make that happen with your support!
What will your donation fund?
Your donation funds what film industry folks call a "sizzle reel." A sizzle reel is a very short film (5 to 10 minutes) that captures the TPKC's look, feel and content. Some might call this a "trailer," but we like sizzle reel because it reminds us of bacon. Our team will use it to pitch TPKC to prospective television networks. Having a good sizzle reel greatly increases our chances of finding a television home for TPKC. Your generosity will help pay for the following costs associated with the sizzle reel:
- Film production and editing.
- Travel to film on location at a historic, presidential site.
- Archival research at presidential libraries.
- Intellectual property rights to include images of African American presidential chefs in action in the White House kitchen.
What happens if you exceed your goal?
Should we exceed our $10,000 funding goal, there's no reason to stop giving! Your donation will be used to develop and produce the full and final version of the documentary that will air on television. It will also help publish a companion book that will further explore documentary's themes and include recipes of the foods our presidents loved that were so expertly prepared by the hands of these featured chefs.
What will the TPKC documentary explore?
TPKC profiles the men and women, free and enslaved, who cooked for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as well as the independent professionals and family cooks of Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson. Through the cooks' eyes, we'll see how presidential cuisine and dining has changed over the past two centuries. The TPKC's stories are informed by fascinating research gleaned from cookbooks, historical documents, oral histories, magazines and newspapers, contemporary interviews from former White House chefs and staffers, as well as photographs of the White House kitchens and dining spaces. Here are just a few appetizers:
- Find out about the cook who saved President Washington's life by foiling the "Poisoned Pea Plot of 1776."
- Hear more about the enslaved cook who spent three years learning classical French cooking in order to please the palate of a future president.
- Guess which president loved pig's feet so much that he served them in the White House (probably not who you would suspect)?
- Reveal the identity of the cook who grilled steaks on the roof of the White House with President Eisenhower.
- Learn more about the cook whose Jim Crow experiences motivated President Lyndon to lobby hard for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Her chili recipe got him in hot water with the general public and the "Great Chili Controversy of 1964."
These stories and more await you in TPKC!
When will I see TPKC on television?
We want TPKC to air on President's Day in 2016, but that decision will ultimately be up to the network. We really like the synergy of sharing the story of African American presidential chefs on a holiday celebrating our presidents during Black History Month while in a presidential election year.
I'm a food writer, attorney, politico and certified barbecue judge who lives in Denver, CO. I worked in the Clinton White House serving as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and as a deputy director of the Initiative for One America. After my White House stint, I got deeply interested in African American foodways, and that led me to write Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time which was published by the University of North Carolina Press in August 2013. Soul Food has received critical acclaim, including the 2014 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship. For more information on me and my book, click here.
About Team TPKC
We have a strong and experienced team to make TPKC a reality. For the sizzle reel that we'll shop to television networks, we're calling on the talents of fantastic filmmaker Joe York.
Joe York makes documentary films at the University of Mississippi's Center for Documentary Projects (www.olemissmedia.com). York also works closely with the Southern Foodways Alliance (www.southernfoodways.com) for whom he has produced 17 documentary shorts. Aside from his documentary work, York also produces Highway 61 Radio, a blues radio show that airs on the stations of Mississippi Public Broadcasting (www.highway61radio.org). Check out Joe's films here.
For the television documentary itself, we have an all-star lineup of:
Executive Producer Theresa Moore brings experience in making documentaries and getting them on television. Moore is the founder and owner of T-Time Productions which has produced ground-breaking documentaries including Third and Long: The History of African Americans in Pro Football 1946-1989 and License to Thrive: Title IX at 35. Moore's work has been distributed on ESPN, CBS and the NFL Network and has been featured on ABC News, the NFL Network's Total Access, Madison Square Garden Network's Training Skills, CBS Affiliate WLTV in New Orleans and The New York Post. Prior to starting T-Time, Moore was an executive with ESPN and Coca-Cola.
Executive Producer Rolanda Gaines is a sports and media veteran with 15+ years of both domestic and international experience in sports, media and consumer products. Gaines is the director of marketing and communications at FOX Sports South. Previously, Gaines was senior director of strategy and planning for ESPN Content Development--a production arm responsible for the creation of domestic and international studio show, scripted series, documentaries, films and digital content.
Associate Producer and Project Collaborator Walter Scheib served as the White House Executive Chef from 1994 to 2005 (During the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations). Chef Scheib is currently the principal of The American Chef Event Services, and he's the author of White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen (Houghton Mifflin 2007). Scheib is an accomplished chef and an engaging storyteller in his right. Find out more about Chef Scheib here.
Screenwriter Mojie Crigler is an award-winning writer living in Cambridge, MA. As a scriptwriter and script coordinator, Mojie has worked for clients as PBS, ABC and the NBA on productions including the NBA All-Star Game and the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize. Her memoir, Get Me Through Tomorrow, is forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press. Mojie's plays have been produced at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Magic Theatre, New York Performance Works and Carnegie Mellon University. Her prose is published/forthcoming in Glimmer Train, The Believer, The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere. Honors include the Howard Frank Mosher Prize for Short Fiction from Hunger Mountain and commissions from EST/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Find out more about Mojie here.
Thank you for taking the time to find out more about this project.
Adrian Miller. Project Creator
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk is that we create an amazing sizzle reel, shop it around and no television network wants to produce or air TPKC. Even if that happens, this dream won't die! We'll push on and develop the documentary as a web series of short videos with each episode profiling one African American presidential chef. Right now, we have enough information to produce eight chef profiles. Once we get a chance to dig into the archives of presidential libraries, we expect to find a whole lot more.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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