Eventually, James would speak French more fluently than Jefferson, who never mastered the language. James’ apprenticeship lasted three years, concluding in the spring and summer months of 1787, when he studied under the chef of the Prince of Condé. Initially, his lessons were held in the kitchen of the prince’s palace in Paris, but the final weeks of his training took place at the prince’s country chateau, Chantilly. Meals at Chantilly were sumptuous, and had been since the 17th century when Louis XIV came to dine. As a result, James’ training in the culinary arts under the prince’s chef meant that he was learning the most sophisticated techniques of French cuisine from an absolute master.
When he entered Condé’s kitchen, James joined an exclusive all-male world. In France, female cooks were acceptable in the homes of the bourgeoisie, but among the upper classes, a woman in the kitchen was un thinkable. La cuisine de femmes meant “home cooking,” a phrase which French chefs and French gourmands alike scorned. What the French up per crust desired -- and so did Thomas Jefferson, for that matter -- was haute cuisine: re fined, imaginative dishes served with style....
As word spread in Virginia of the remarkable meals that were being served at Monticello, Patrick Henry, one of Jefferson’s most bitter political opponents and a culinary chauvinist, denounced Jefferson as a man who had “abjured his native victuals!”
August 21, 2012
"... How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America." A new book, by Thomas J. Craughwell, who provides this quickie version of the story in the American Spectator: