Sarah Helen Mahammitt

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Sarah Helen Mahammitt
Canada or Michigan
Died(1956-11-26)November 26, 1956
OccupationCaterer, Author
Spouse(s)Thomas P. Mahammitt

Sarah Helen Bradley Toliver Mahammitt (c.1873 – November 26, 1956) was a caterer, chef and author of cookbooks in Omaha, Nebraska. She studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris 1927 and sought to bring formal, European style cooking to African-American women in Omaha.


Sarah Helen B. Toliver was born around 1873 in either Canada or Michigan, to James H. Toliver and Sarah A. (Bently) Toliver. Sarah Bently was born in St. Thomas, Ontario. James Tolliver was born in Covington, Kentucky, and went to Amherstburg, Ontario in the early 1850s, later to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Helen married Thomas P. Mahammitt on May 25, 1904 in Des Moines, Iowa, after his marriage to Ella Mahammitt ended. Thomas Mahammitt died March 28, 1950.[1]

Sarah Toliver Mahammitt died November 26, 1956.[2] Her funeral was at St. Philips Episcopal Church and she was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.[3]


Thomas worked as a caterer and Helen joined in. In 1910, Mahammitt traveled to Boston and attended Miss Farmer's Catering School. She catered many major Omaha events, including, for example, the wedding of Violet Joslyn and David Walter Magowan and Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben coronations.[4]

Intending to retire, she traveled to Paris in June, 1927 on a vacation. She visited Le Courdon Bleu and was taken with the school, enrolling in a course. She learned French while taking classes and was inspired to continue working and to teach cooking when she returned to Omaha.[5] She offered cooking and catering classes in Omaha, often free of charge.[6] She also endorsed Omar Cake Mixes.[7] She retired in 1950, when her husband died.[2]

In 1939, she published a cookbook, Recipes and Domestic Service: The Mahammitt School of Cookery. Mahammitt's forward focused on her own experience and training and her interest in passing her skills on to others. The book focused mostly on non-southern fare. It self-consciously avoided food associated with poor blacks or southern slave culture. She recognized the racial aspect of her work, noting the need to be "diplomatic" at times and to "be tactful in bringing your superior knowledge into play" when interacting with white clientele, and that the black cook should pay attention to the maintenance of white clients' standing.[8]


Los Angeles Times food writer, Toni Tipton-Martin, features Mahammitt's story in her book on the history of African American cooking, "The Jemima Code".[9][10]


  • Mahammitt, Helen B. (1939). Recipes and Domestic Service: The Mahammitt School of Cookery.


  1. ^ Thomas Mahammitt, Veteran Caterer, Dies. Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska). Wednesday, March 29, 1950. Page: 29
  2. ^ a b Leading City Caterer Dies. Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska). November 27, 1956. Page: 14
  3. ^ Obituaries. Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska). Tuesday, November 27, 1956. Page: 27
  4. ^ Early Coronation Suppers Served on Den's Balcony. Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska). Sunday, October 25, 1953. Page: 68
  5. ^ Cateress Who Studied Art in Paris Plans to Open Cooking School Here. Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska). Wednesday, November 30, 1927. Page: 12
  6. ^ Open Catering Class. Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska). Thursday, September 20, 1934. Page: 9
  7. ^ [Advertisement]. Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska). Tuesday, October 12, 1948 Page: 9
  8. ^ Wallach, Jennifer Jensen. Dethroning the Deceitful Pork Chop: Rethinking African American Foodways from Slavery to Obama. University of Arkansas Press, Aug 1, 2015, pages 34-37
  9. ^ Bill Daley, ‘Jemima Code’ reframes history of African-American cooking, Chicao Tribune Nov. 15, 2015, accessed at the Detroit Free Press, January 8, 2016
  10. ^ Tipton-Martin, Toni. The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks” University of Texas Press, (2015).