Seven years before becoming president, retired Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson promised his enslaved chef de cuisine, James Hemings, his freedom—but only after Hemings taught other Monticello slaves how to cook. More than a century later, former President Lyndon B. Johnson used the Jim Crow experiences of his personal cook, Zephyr Wright, to shame Congress into passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These are just a taste of the fascinating stories James Beard Award–winning author Adrian Miller shares in his new book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas. The riveting voices of African-American cooks, stewards, butlers, and servers come to life in this narrative, which weaves personal peccadillos into a unique behind-the-scenes look at presidential politics and foodways. “These people have been largely ignored, but they had positions of real power,” Miller says. “They often used that influence to assert their humanity.”

Meet the author—and get the book—at Tattered Cover (Colfax) on April 4.