Sorghum Cookies at the Governor's Residence

By / Photography By Brooke Stevens | October 31, 2016
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Chef Stephen Ward keeps the Governor’s residence “in sorghum cookies” all season long.

It’s holiday time at the Governor’s Residence, and along with the trees, baubles, wreaths, garland, and Tennessee crafts, there’s cookies. And the baker of those cookies is Chef Stephen Ward, the first family’s cook. Stephen, a Memphis bred boy, graduated from The New England Culinary Institute (NECI) in Vermont, was the executive chef for Amerigo, and a few years later found himself in “the right place at the right time.” He’s been the Haslam’s chef for three years. While he cooks for many a party, more times than not he’s cooking a “clean, fresh” meal for the Haslams, who like to eat simple and healthy when at home.

But back to cookies. A couple years ago Stephen sat down with First Lady Crissy Haslam to decide what the “first cookie” should be. As big supporters of all things Tennessee, it made sense to incorporate a local Tennessee product. Enter Muddy Pond Sorghum made in the little community of Muddy Pond, nestled in between Nashville and Knoxville. The sorghum is a rich, dark, thick syrup boiled down every fall from sorghum root that grows on the Menonnite farm of the Geunther family. It’s comparable to molasses and is also called “sorghum molasses.”

The cookie is everything you want a great cookie to be: crunchy, sweet, buttery and satisfying. The cookies are perfect for the holidays. They’re great on their own, but why not gussy them up with a sorghum buttercream filling, which chef Ward was doing the day we visited. You can sample the actual cookies at the Governor’s Residence at their annual Christmas tour. But better hurry up, the Governor has a sweet tooth, shhhh.

This years Holiday Open House at the Governor’s Residence is December 2–16, Monday through Saturday. You can reserve a time on the First Lady’s website.

Photo 1: Face jugs by Tennessee clay artist Wes Jordan
Photo 2: The dining room of the Governor's residence decked out for Christmas.
Photo 1: Chef Stephen Ward with his sorghum cookies.
Photo 2: Look for Muddy Pond sorghum at stores that sell local products
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