About Historic Foodways

Palace Kitchen

Governor’s Palace kitchen

The Department of Historic Foodways was created in 1983, with the purpose of researching and recreating the foods of the 18th century. The department currently operates daily in the Governor’s Palace kitchen and the Armoury Kitchen. In addition to the kitchen cooking programs, Foodways also offers these special programs. Check our calendar to see what programs are scheduled.

The department runs demonstration kitchens at the Governor’s Palace and the Public Armoury. Historic Foodways is currently involved in research on food-related topics including food preservation, coffee, beer brewing, dairying, and military foods.

Foodways works with Historic Area chefs at the taverns and the Williamsburg Lodge to help incorporate 18th-century recipes and terminology into modern restaurant menus, so guests can experience the flavors of the past.

Learn more about the Historic Foodways trade and other trades.


Meet the Cooks

Frank Clark

Frank Clark

Frank Clark supervises Historic Foodways, a department that uses period tools and equipment in two colonial kitchens to research 18th-century food, dining practices and cooking techniques.

He has been with Historic Foodways since 1993. His primary area of research has been historic beer and brewing. Frank is the author of the paper “A Most Wholesome Liquor,” detailing brewing in 18th-century England and her colonies. He has also authored two chapters in the book “Chocolate, History, Culture and Heritage.”

Frank has appeared on the Food Network and in the documentary “American Brew.” Other television appearances include: “The Today Show,” “Unwrapped,” and “A Taste of History.” He has acted as a consultant to the History Channel and print publications such as Cooking With Paula Deen, Savor, and the Beer Advocate. Frank attended Ferrum College and received a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies.



Kimberly Costa

Kimberly Costa began studying 18th-century foodways and textiles after visiting an 18th-century historic site with her son’s class 20 years ago. She attended Raritan Valley College and Rutgers University where she earned degrees in liberal arts, U.S. history and theater. She worked for a wide variety of historic sites and museums  before joining the Historic Foodways staff over the summer. As an independent historian, she provided hands-on programs and lectures all over the country through her own company for libraries, schools, civic organizations and historic sites.

She also has been a presenter for several years at the national meetings of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums and is the current chair for the Historic Foodways Professional Interest Group.

As an actress she has appeared on stage and in film and has done costume work for several productions.


Rob Brantley

Robert Brantley

Rob completed his Historic Foodways apprenticeship in 2002 after eight years of study and practice in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area kitchens.

He’s made a special study of ice cream, beer-making, and colonial chocolate, but you can find him preparing a full range of 18th-century dishes in the kitchens of the Governor’s Palace and the Peyton Randolph house.

When asked what his favorite recipe is, Rob’s answer is a simple, “Any red meat that has been roasted in front of a fire!”

Susan Holler

Susan Holler

Susan grew up as a child of Colonial Williamsburg. Her father, Perry Holler, was Colonial Williamsburg’s ice cream maker, and her mother interpreted the history of Historic Area buildings and sites. A self-described “serious hobby cook,” her expertise is born of her early restaurant experience and 15 years in historic kitchens.

Asked to pick her favorite colonial foods, she lists an eclectic mix of 18th-century delights, including syllabub, pigs feet jelly, chelsea buns, roasted meats, and chocolate creams.


Barbara Scherer

Barbara Scherer

Born in England, Barbara graduated from culinary college and went on to work as a chef and butcher. In 2001, she became an apprentice in Colonial Williamsburg Foodways and advanced to the title of journeyman in 2005.


Melissa Blank

Melissa Blank

Originally from St. Louis, MO, Melissa Blank is a graduate of Southwest Missouri State University with a degree in education. She began her career as a Theater and Social Studies teacher in Missouri Public Schools. Ms. Blank has worked in the field of Museum Education and Interpretation since 2002, including sites such as Historic Pensacola Village, Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites, and the Daniel Boone Home & Village. In May of 2011, Ms. Blank received her Masters of Education in Historic Site Interpretation from the Department of American Studies at Lindenwood University, St. Charles, MO. Ms. Blank moved to Williamsburg in March, 2011 to begin work with Colonial Williamsburg Foundation as an interpreter.

Jim Gay

Jim Gay
Memorial: Remembering Jim Gay

Jim joined Historic Foodways in 1996. He began researching chocolate in 2000, and chocolate making became a regular Historic Foodways program in 2002.

Jim has been featured on the Food Network, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the CBS “Early Show,” on PBS, and in magazines, websites and newspaper articles. He has presented lectures and training programs for several museums and universities and wrote chapters for “Chocolate, History, Culture and Heritage.”

Jim graduated in 1972 from the University of Southern California with a BA in history, and later acquired an MBA from New Hampshire College and graduate education courses for Virginia teacher certification from George Mason University.