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Chef Hercules Posey

Chef Hercules Posey

In honor of Black History Month we celebrate Chef Hercules Posey one of Philadelphia’s culinary masters during the 18th century and served as George Washington’s chef at Mount Vernon and at the president’s house in Philadelphia before the White House was fully built. 
Posey was unique and very famous in his own time. Posey was one of several enslaved chefs of African dissent that were highly skilled in Caribbean, European, Native American culinary ideas/skills, as well as their own heritage. They created the meals that ended up in the dining room tables, of Washington and Philadelphia which gave rise to what we now know as American haute cuisine. 

Because his status in the kitchen often confuses people into believing that he had an easier life, than those who worked outside in the field. This is not so. The work of the cook was extremely taxing, mentally and emotionally, because they worked under extreme conditions, and they worked under the watchful eye of the master and his “mistress Miss Mrs.” The Cook had to perform at a high-level at all times, and he could not mess up or make mistakes.

 He had to hold it together under extreme pressure despite inhumane treatment and manage the staff while meeting the high standard of the people who owned him. Enslaved cooks worked constantly all day and it was a 24-hour day seven days a week job. 

George Washington took great pains to circumvent the Pennsylvania law known as the 1780 Gradual Abolition Law that emancipated enslaved persons remaining in the commonwealth for more than six months. Washington made sure that Posey and 9 other enslaved Africans would never be able to become emancipated under the Pennsylvania law and kept Posey and nine other enslaved Africans with him in Philadelphia and the condition of bondage. He did this by rotating Posey and the others out of the city into pro-slavery states like New Jersey across the Delaware river and or back to Virginia.

On February 22, 1797. Chef Posey walked away from Mount Vernon and turned up four years later in New York City where he worked as a cook and caterer until his death on May 15, 1812. 

Since then, Posey’s style has been emulated by chefs creating for the president’s table a high end haute American cuisine. The importance of this is we celebrate Hercules because he is America’s first celebrity chef, and although he was not free, he opened the way for African-Americans and for Emmaline's Hot sauce.  #emmalineshotsauce #chefhercules #chef 
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