Library Journal Review
DEBUT Journalist Ganeshram's historical fiction debut tells the story of one of the first chefs in the United States and does not shy away from the truth that he was also an enslaved person. Hercules (his last name remains unknown) was celebrated as a culinary artist by all who came to eat at the residences of George Washington, and especially by the general and his wife. Despite that acclaim, his ability to move freely around 1790s Philadelphia, and the acceptance of his management of the president's kitchen, Hercules's actions were constantly under scrutiny. He could be threatened, assaulted, even kidnapped, by any white person who might take umbrage or perceive a profit. Ganeshram vividly contrasts Hercules's freedom with the constraints of always being under suspicion just for being black to create a carefully crafted view of the new nation, as seen through the eyes of someone for whom freedom was just out of reach. VERDICT Recommended for anyone, from high school up, looking for an understanding of American culture in our early republic and the juxtaposition of talent with slavery. [See "Editors' Fall Picks," LJ 8/18.]-W. Keith McCoy, Somerset Cty. Lib. Syst., Bridgewater, NJ © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
In the nascent years of the American Republic, Chef Hercules is a better-dressed, eighteenth-century Gordon Ramsay: he has the run of Philadelphia, makes twice the average wage, and rules his kitchen with a perfectionist's iron fist. He also happens to be enslaved to none other than the revered first president, George Washington. When Hercules is moved to Mount Vernon, everything changes, and he ponders a desperate bid to transform his life. Hercules was a historical person, and Ganeshram's novelization adds much intrigue and color to the minimal archival record. Acclaimed food columnist, chef, and cookbook author Ganeshram stops just short of villainizing Washington but evinces no such scruples towards other Founding Fathers or First Lady Martha Washington, characterized as a clucking, witless hen. A romantic subplot between a white indentured servant and an enslaved kitchen boy will tug at heartstrings. Ganeshram shines when describing ingredients, dishes Hercules prepares, and the precision of his kitchen. Bringing those living on the fringes of history to the forefront, this can be recommended to historical-fiction fans looking for a multicultural perspective.--Bethany Latham Copyright 2018 Booklist