Farmers & Distillers Reveals New Art That Honors Our First President’s Chefs

Last week, Farmers & Distillers and Galerie Myrtis joined together to host the unveiling of two portraits commissioned for the restaurant by figurative artist Ronald Jackson of the remarkable, enslaved cooks–Hercules and Old Doll–who worked at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate during the mid to late 1700s.

The sold out event, held at our Mt Vernon Square restaurant, brought together guests from all over the DC area, including members of the art community, historians, and foodies, to celebrate and honor these two chefs and their contributions to our nation’s history and current culinary landscape.

Presentations included Dr. Joanne Hyppolite, Curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture, who discussed contributions of African Americans to America’s food culture; and Dr. Susan Schoelwer, Curator at Mount Vernon, who explained what is known about the extraordinary lives of Hercules and Old Doll and the plantation’s current exhibition on slavery, Lives Bound Together.

Hercules worked in Washington’s presidential kitchen in Philadelphia and on the Mount Vernon plantation. Jackson’s portrait honors him as the first presidential chef and a gifted culinarian. Old Doll, the plantation’s head cook, preceded Hercules in Washington’s kitchen. Jackson’s portrait pays homage to Old Doll’s cultivation of Hercules’ culinary skills and influence on American cuisine.

In creating Farmers & Distillers, we looked to George and Martha Washington and Mount Vernon for inspiration, and in the process, Hercules and Old Doll figured prominently. We wanted to share what we’ve learned and tell the story of our first president, his chefs, and our country’s past as clearly and honestly as we can. We hope our guests will see these portraits and read our menus, and be reminded that our founding father, the innovative and important George Washington, was a slave-holder and that his slaves worked under grave duress in gruelingly difficult scenarios. This is part of our nation’s history that must never be forgotten or overlooked.

Ronald Jackson embraced this project using his visually poetic style and keen interest in these chefs as individuals. We worked with him to help us tell their stories, honor their contributions to our country’s culinary history, and recognize them for what they would be today, celebrity chefs.

Both portraits will be permanently installed in the main dining room in the coming weeks, joining an expansive array of original art commissioned for Farmers & Distillers. More information about Farmers & Distillers, our artists, and their work, including photos and videos, is available online at Farmers& Or come on by for a meal or a drink and see them for yourself.

*photo: Artist Ronald Jackson smiles as his portraits are unveiled at F&D, as FRG Owner Dan Simons looks on.

Farmers & Distillers Hosts their first Art Reveal: An Evening with the Artists

Step into our latest restaurant, Farmers & Distillers, and it is readily apparent that art plays a vital role in the dining experience and culture. From the expansive 36-foot mural of Mount Vernon and the distillation process, with multiple miniatures of George Washington whimsically working, to the modern-day portrait of George with a man bun, original artwork is built into the very foundation of our newest farmer-owned restaurant.

Farmers & Distillers honored the artists and their contributions last week, with an ART REVEAL: An Evening with the Artists. Invited guests had an opportunity to tour the restaurant with the artists and learn about their process, inspiration, and details of their unique artwork. They also spoke with owner, Dan Simons, about why we are growing our interest in original art and artists.

“At our restaurants, we are all about making things by hand and from scratch. It starts with our food of course, but also includes our artwork,” says Dan Simons. “We are delighted to work with artists in creating original pieces of artwork that help us tell the tale of our restaurants.”

Art has always been an important part of the design process for Farmers Restaurant Group, with each restaurant having it’s own unique and original pieces of art. But, it is clear that the importance of art in our environment is continually increasing. With Farmers & Distillers, we have taken our interest in original artwork to a whole new level. We collaborated with local and regional artists on original pieces of art that reflect the spirit of our first president, George Washington, and tell the story of how his life and the lives of those around him at Mount Vernon inspired us in the creation of Farmers & Distillers.

The artists whose work we commissioned for Farmers & Distillers include:

Aaron Pexa created hand-cast glass sconces from a previous installation, The Lucent Parlor, that help bring the magic of Mt. Vernon’s pre-electric interiors to the General’s Parlor, an intimate, 16-seat private dining room tucked away on the lower level in Farmers & Distillers.

Kiki Carrillo painted the 36-foot mural in the center of our main dining room, Georgie Distills, that tells the history of distillation through the ethereal presence of George Washington, with views of his Mount Vernon estate and Washington, DC.

Nathan Loda painted the modern-day portrait of Young Washington with a man-bun featured in the main dining room. This is not his first work for FRG. Loda is also the artist behind the striking Headless Horse host-stand artwork found at Founding Farmers Tysons.

Noella Cotnam has sculpted animals for each of our restaurants. Her frolicking gophers, and mama and baby owls at Farmers & Distillers are joining a family that includes a ram, sheepdog, lamb, pig, cow, duck, goat, and bear.

Ronald Jackson has two pieces of commissioned work currently underway and not yet in the restaurant, portraits of the enslaved cooks from the Mount Vernon kitchen in the mid to late 1700’s.


For more information about the artists, their artwork, and few videos of the process, please go to our Artists page at Farmers & Distillers. Or come on by for a meal or a drink and see them in person. Reserve a table today.