Our Mission

The James Hemings Society (JHS) is a nonprofit arts and education organization dedicated to serving, unearthing and illuminating the significant contributions of James Hemings; along with countless under acknowledged food and drink professionals of African descent throughout American history. The Society will seek out, inspirit and share the narratives of their unsung contributions to myriad food and drink industries and their profound influences on the formation of both regional and national floodways. Through workshops, symposiums, historic dinners and food events, JHS will engage, inspire and educate audiences using Chef Hemings’ life’s work and legacy as a portal to rediscover the origins and evolution of American cuisine in creative, inclusive and engaging ways. 

 “James Hemings has been a ghost in America’s kitchen, overshadowed and still enslaved to the narrative that gives Thomas Jefferson credit for introducing gourmet cuisine to the nation. I dream of a day when Hemings is no longer left out of media stories on the origins of fine food in America.”
Chef Ashbell McElveen
Founder of the JHS

“The culinary legacy of descendants of slaves, most African Americans today, is intrinsic to all aspects of American foodways, yet stands apart from our ‘Nation ofImmigrants’ narrative — and much of recorded history.”   
Tonya Hopkins, a.k.a. “The Food Griot”
Founding Member of the JHS

“There is a lost generation of African American chefs, and the nation’s cuisine is the poorer for it.” 
Chef Jacques Pepin
The Apprentice, pg 242

Our Initiatives



The James Hemings Society aims to establish a research program, an electronic and terrestrial information and content repository, for the retention, education, growth and dissemination of the African American food legacy.

The Library will also generate scholarly content, concepts and critical ideas to help offset continued key cultural omissions from culinary school core curriculums.

JHS’s Culinary Conversations series combines select content from panels, events and recorded interviews featuring food and drink industry trailblazers to create podcasts, live stream and video content to ignite and keep the conversation going and shared across multimedia platforms.

Acknowledging the role that social media and user-generated content plays in inspiring a new generation of food historians, conscious chefs, writers, media personalities and digital storytellers, the JHS Living Library will establish participation in user-created content and via creative partnerships with allied organizations . Together we will work to create better opportunities for current and future generations of culinary aficionados. And, we endeavor to pave a smoother trail for professionals who seek to carry on this lasting legacy. 



The JHS recognizes that many African American chefs do not have the financial means to travel and expand their culinary repertoire. JHS aims to provide 2 yearly Culinary Stipends for a 2-3 month stay abroad to study further foreign culinary elements key to American Southern Cuisine. Open to all food and beverage professionals, the Chefs Abroad Initiative is not just for chefs. The stipends will be open to culinary industry professionals with a minimum of 4 years professional working experience. 



Creating the James Hemings Society would not be possible without the generous support of sponsors. Forward-thinking organizations that celebrate diversity are encouraged to provide support in the form of cash contributions, products, resources and services. It takes collective work and responsibility from a committed family of partners to realize the events, programs and opportunities offered by JHS.    


Food purveyors, wine producers and distributors, local farmers and produce suppliers, food and beverage brands, quality of life products and services, are among the sponsor categories that can benefit from an association with JHS.