Black History Month dinner series honors enslaved chef Hercules

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
Chef Maxcel Hardy opened his new restaurant, River Bistro, in Detroit in 2017.

Since returning to Detroit to open his River Bistro restaurant in Rosedale Park in summer 2017, chef Maxcel Hardy hasn’t stood still. 

He’s opened a second restaurant (Coop Detroit inside the Detroit Shipping Company), has continued the conversation around food and community and has offered free meals to furloughed government workers. 

Next month at River Bistro, chef Hardy will honor Black History Month with a Saturday dinner series shining a light on the history behind Hercules, the first chef of President George Washington. As history tells it, Hercules was born into slavery and became the first president's head chef before escaping from Mount Vernon. 

River Bistro on Grand River in Detroit.

To honor Hercules' legacy, chef Hardy will prepare a five-course meal featuring black-eyed pea hummus, corn and shrimp fritters, Cornish hen with dirty rice, blackened catfish with Southern succotash and a dessert of rum and chocolate panna cotta with Pop-Rocks candy. 

“As an African-American chef, I’m reminded daily of the contributions my ancestors brought to our country,” said Hardy in a press release about the series. “Everything from fruits, nuts, grains, herbs, and spices to cooking techniques and utensils originating from Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, are all infused with what we eat, and how we eat it in America.  In culinary school names such as Hercules, James Hemings, Abby Fisher or Malinda Russell are not discussed as part of the history of American cooking and cuisine — but they should.”

The 30-person dinners are 7-9 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 9, 16 and 23. Tickets are $50 per person. For tickets or information, call (313) 855-6108 or email River Bistro is at 18456 Grand River in Detroit. 

Chef Maxcel Hardy at the Burger Battle in Detroit last year.

Twitter: @melodybaetens