Mac and Cheese and the French Cuisine of James Hemings

Mac and Cheese and the French Cuisine of James Hemings

James Hemings

from Chef Moe

Hi everyone this is Chef Moe Marsh of Stevenson Ridge back again to share the brief history of James Hemings, an immensely talented chef. He was responsible for the spread of French cuisine to America, including crème brûlée, merengues, whipped cream and macaroni and cheese.

James Hemings ( 1765-1801) was an American mixed-race slave owned and freed by Thomas Jefferson. He was an older brother of Sally Hemings and half-sibling of Jefferson’s wife Martha Jefferson; their father was John Wayles. As a young man, Hemings was selected by Jefferson to accompany him to Paris when the latter was appointed Minister of France. There, Hemings was trained for 5 years to be a French chef; independently, he took lessons to learn how to speak the French language.

One of James Hemings’ signature dishes was mac & cheese, something that is apart of every household today but which was a high-end dish eaten elusively by the wealthy during the formative years of our nation. (James was way before his time and very innovative with French American cuisine!)

I’ll leave you with this recipe so you can dig dipper to find out more about his life and times, and also his influence on American cuisine. Till next time, remember to stay hungry and cook with a smile.

Mac & Cheese Recipe

• Butter, for greasing dish
• 16 ounces large elbow macaroni
• 3 cups milk
• 2 tsp all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp salt
• ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
• 2 cups freshly shredded parmesan cheese
• 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
• 2 cups Romano cheese
• 2 tbls butter


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter a 13-by 9inch glass baking dish and set aside.

In a large pit of boiling water, cook the noodles until tender (8-10 min). Drain pot; do not rinse.

In a large bowl whisk in the milk, flour, salt until blended.

Stir in 1 ½ cups of the three cheeses. Add the noodles and butter, and toss to coat.

Transfer to the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan, mozzarella, and Romano cheese over the noodle mixture.

Bake until the cheese turns light brown (12-14 min). Let stand before serving.

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