A good friend of BCH Chef Kevin Mitchell has just informed us that next April he will be heading up a dinner in Charleston, SC in the site of Nat Fuller's restaurant A Bachelor's Retreat to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the civil war.
Nat Fuller is one of those characters that helps us know that black chefs were indeed skilled, savvy, brilliant figures throughout American history and that our legacy in food is cemented and without question. There will definitely be more to come about the dinner, how to get tickets and we will certainly share it with you, but for now here is the official press release that gives you a little more background in Chef Nat Fuller and the spirit of this dinner.
NAT FULLER’S FEAST
A dinner commemorating the most hopeful act of reconciliation that occurred in the
South wake of the defeat of the Confederacy.
On April 18, 2015 a group of 80 citizens of different ethnic backgrounds will gather
in Charleston to mark the end of the 150th anniversary commemorations of the Civil
War. They will sit down to a dinner hosted by Chef Kevin Mitchell recalling the
courageous gathering that Charleston’s most talented and famous chef in the 19th
century, the African American restaurateur and caterer Nat Fuller, held in the
defeated and despondent city in the weeks following news of the surrender at
Appomattox. Charleston was where secession had begun and the first shots of the
war had been fired. Nat Fuller insured that it would be the place where the new
civil order and its expanded civil rights would be made real. Exercising his right to
stand as a host, he invited white and black citizens to sit as table as guests and
experience for the first time a sociable fellowship on a grounds of equality.
Fuller’s initiative was audacious, but he had built up enormous cultural capital in the
years before and during the war. He had catered every important banquet of every
important association and corporation in the city—from the Chamber of Commerce
to the Washington Artillery Company, from the fire companies to the St. Cecelia
Society. He knew personally every significant white family in the city. His culinary
expertise, his genius was universally acknowledged. In the occupied city, with the
African American troops of the Massachusetts 54th Brigade patrolling the streets, he
alone had access to the finest provisions Yankee steamers brought to the wharves.
He and his wife, pastry chef Diane Fuller, alone could supply the glories of a public
This they did—sometime between May 6 and May 15 1865. Accepting Nat Fuller’s
invitations (indeed some white guests presuming upon old familiarity were turned
away), old Charleston aristocrats sat along the same refectory table with the most
respectable of the city’s African American residents, some newly liberated. A
Charlestonian dowager who witnessed the proceedings from a distance termed it
the “miscegenation feast” for whites and blacks had never been so intermingled in a
sociable event before. But Fuller wanted to give a strong example of a new way of
doing civility. Our commemorative dinner honors his lesson and recognizes that the
values for which Fuller stood—culinary expertise, the ethic of hospitality, the spirit
of generosity—are precisely those that eventually elevated Charleston to a world
Our dinner will begin at the site of Fuller’s famous restaurant, the Bachelor’s
Retreat, at 103 Church Street, where cocktails will be served. Fuller stands as the
first mixologist recorded in Charleston’s annals. Indeed his final appearance in
print, shortly before his death in 1866, presented him performing his art on a
harbor cruise for the city’s firefighters: “Nat Fuller, the renowned presiding genius
over many a fine dinner and supper, has a cunning way of fixing up water so as to
take all the bad taste out of it. We did not get the exact receipt, but believe that ice,
brandy, mint and sugar are some of the condiments used. There was an abundant
supply of this preparation; and it was in constant quest, as it was recommended as a
panacea.” Nat Fuller’s cocktails will be served.
After a short procession through the streets of Charleston accompanied by the
reenactors of the 54th Massachusetts “Glory Brigade” the company will convene at
the long room at McCrady’s—the one surviving room in the city that existed as a
dining space that can accommodate long refectory tables. Chefs from the Culinary
Institute of Charleston and McCrady’s under the direction of Kevin Mitchell will
present a seasonal meal based on the Fuller’s bills of fare. Chef Mitchell will deliver
a speech of welcome in the person of Nat Fuller, and the dinner will be served in the
style of 1865.
The evening will conclude with toasts and a performance of a song of farewell.