A few weeks ago, we visited the wonderful history of ice cream here in the states and briefly mentioned chef James Hemings’ role in this classic refreshing dessert and many others. But did you know he had a hand in popularizing macaroni and cheese in America? Hemings earned the role of chef de cuisine in President Thomas Jefferson’s kitchen on the Champs-Élysées while visiting Paris around 1784. 

While there, Hemings served his creations to the European aristocrats, writers and scientists whom Jefferson invited to dine on foods that the chef was learning to perfect. On one occasion, Hemings prepared a simple Italian dish that the French had tweaked with their techniques and additions, such as baking it, adding butter and serving it as a casserole of sorts. 

James, the older brother of Sally Hemings — the enslaved Black woman who bore several of Thomas Jefferson’s children — is believed to have been the first American chef to be trained in Paris, thanks to his traveling there with Thomas Jefferson in his role of the president’s cook. In addition to making ice cream, he also learned about and recreated — and popularized — crème brûlée, along with French fries, meringues, whipped cream, and of course, macaroni and cheese. 

Heming’s “macaroni pie” eventually evolved into the dish Americans today call macaroni and cheese, a comfort food that remains as loved as it is versatile — and ideal for building a franchise around.  

Tarrant County restaurant to feature mac and cheese

Pratik Soni
Pratik Soni

I Heart Mac & Cheese is owned and operated by Tarrant County resident and businessman Dr. Pratik Soni, who also owns and operates Back in Motion Chiropractic in Carrollton. Soni, originally from India and now living in Richland Hills, runs I Heart Mac & Cheese with the help of his parents, who are shop managers. Soni says he invested in the franchise for a simple reason: He loves cheese.

This rapidly growing fast-casual restaurant concept specializes in made-to-order macaroni and cheese bowls and grilled cheese sandwiches. Not only are there a multitude of options to customize the flavor profiles of the bowls, but the shop also caters to vegans and health-conscious eaters with gluten-free and plant-based options. 

The menu combines award-winning recipes and a sophisticated approach to classic childhood favorites. Founded in South Florida in 2017 by CEO and Chairman Steve Giordanella, I Heart Mac & Cheese has been tagged by Entrepreneur magazine as a “Top 100 Best Growing Franchise” and, in 2021, as “Top Food Franchise Ranking: The Best of Miscellaneous Quick Service Restaurant.”

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There are 42 locations across the United States, including several in Dallas-Fort Worth. The made-to-order food is popular for its build-your-own bowl customizations. Guests select a base of cavatappi pasta, bread, quinoa, broccoli, cauliflower or tater tots, followed by a choice of 10 proteins, 11 vegetables, and nine cheeses. Dressings and sauces include sesame ginger, mango habanero, signature cheese sauce, marinara, buffalo, BBQ, pesto and a signature vegan cheese sauce.

The menu includes plenty 

  • Lobster & White Truffle Mac & Cheese
  • Buffalo Blue Mac & Cheese
  • Classic Mac & Cheese
  • Chicken Parm Mac & Cheese
  • Best of Both Worlds Mac & Cheese & Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  • Vegan Grilled Cheese and Mac & Cheese varieties
  • Signature Mac Bites
  • Cheesy Broccoli
  • Tater Tots
  • Tomato Soup
  • Kids Meals
  • Desserts
  • And more

Have you visited I Heart Mac & Cheese yet? Which options were your favorite? 

For more information on I Heart Mac & Cheese, visit www.iheartmacandcheese.com or call 561-300-5343. Follow on Facebook and Instagram @IHeartMac&Cheese.

Deah Mitchell writes about more than food. You can email her at deah.mitchell@fortworthreport.org.

The restaurant also offers sandwhiches.
I Heart Mac & Cheese offers more than just mac and cheese dishes. The restaurant also offers sandwhiches, among other items. (Courtesy photo | I Heart Mac & Cheese)

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Deah Berry Mitchell is the founder and CEO of Nostalgia Black Group, a multimedia company whose core business is preserving Black cultural history through writing, public speaking, tourism and technology....