6BBF Author Profile: Adrian Miller

You would probably have high expectations for someone who goes by the name of “Soul Food Scholar,” and Adrian Miller delivers. In his third book, which came out this spring, Miller, an attorney turned barbecue judge, plunged into the story of African Americans and their history with smoked meats. In Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of BarbecueMiller continues to “drop knowledge like hot biscuits.” Also spending some time on the political scene, Miller served as a special assistant to the president during the Clinton administration, leaving shortly after George W. Bush took office. This stint led to his second book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas.

His first book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time, won the James Beard Foundation Award for Scholarship and Reference in 2014. His second book was awarded the Ruth Fertel “Keeper of the Flame Award” by the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2018, in recognition of his work on African American foodways. In 2019, he received the Judge Henry N. and Helen T. Graven award from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, for being “an outstanding layperson, whose life is nurtured and guided by a strong sense of Christian calling, and who is making a significant contribution to community, church, and our society.”

We sat down (virtually) and chatted with Miller prior to the upcoming Six Bridges Book Festival.

CALS: At its core, what is your book about?

MillerBlack Smoke is a celebration of African American barbecue culture, and a restoration of African Americans to the American barbecue story.

CALS: What was the process involved with writing your book?

Miller: First I amassed as much information that I could about African American barbecue culture by researching oral histories, cookbooks, books, newspaper and magazine articles, and television shows, and by visiting over 200 barbecue restaurants. I determined the different aspects of barbecue culture that I wanted to explore, and then I distilled the research to support a great narrative.

CALS: What was your favorite part of the writing process?

Miller: The research! I like digging into historical sources, finding incredible stories, and sharing them with a new audience.

CALS: What inspired you?

Miller: I was disturbed by the little attention that African American barbecuers got in the current barbecue craze. I wanted to remind people that the American barbecue story couldn’t be told without including African Americans.

Follow him on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube and, of course, put his virtual Book Fest session on your calendar now. He will be discussing his latest book on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m. Central. Keep your eyes on the Six Bridges page for the full schedule and registration.