James Beard Foundation Awards finalists were announced on Tuesday, March 18, 2014, for its annual awards, which recognize excellence in the culinary food world. The James Beard Foundation Awards for excellence in the food and beverage and related industries were established in 1990 and the first awards were given out in 1991. By shining a spotlight on the people behind the food and beverage industry we were learning to appreciate and enjoy, the James Beard Awards were the impetus to the era of the celebrity chef that is now taken for granted.
After James Beard’s death in 1985, a group of his friends and colleagues spearheaded by cooking school founder Peter Kump responded to a plea from Chef Julia Child to continue on with Beard’s mission. During his life, Beard always welcomed various professionals from the culinary world into his home–his kitchen served as the impetus of America’s burgeoning 20th century food scene, much like what Andy Warhol’s The Factory did for the art scene in the 1960s. Kump organized a fundraising campaign to raise the down payment to purchase Beard’s Greenwich house from his estate, which was held by Reed College following his death.
In November 1986, the James Beard Foundation officially opened the James Beard House as a culinary arts center and continued fostering the interest James Beard inspired in all aspects of food, its preparation presentation, and the enjoyment of food. Calvin Trillin presided over an opening ceremony that welcomed well-known culinary greats such as Jacques Pépin and Larry Forgione, who had been touched and inspired by Beard. The foundation continues that rich tradition by maintaining the Beard House as a culinary training ground and think tank.
James Beard Foundation Awards finalists were announced on Tuesday for its annual awards in Chicago’s trendy West Loop neighborhood, where nationally recognized chefs and culinary experts were on hand to hear who made the list of nominees for 2014. Many of this year’s finalists in the 59 categories came from the Chicago area. That includes the city’s two of five spots in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category, which is given out to an outstanding chef in the U.S. age 30 or younger. Other finalists included rising chefs from all over the nation including New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, areas of North Carolina, and Washington State.
The James Beard Foundation currently hosts more than 250 events at the Beard House annually, which has brought to fruition Kump’s vision and helped maintain Beard’s home as an important meeting place for America’s food community. Throughout its history, the James Beard Foundation has supported the culinary arts in a variety of ways. Additionally, its robust scholarship program has distributed more than $3.5 million in cash awards and tuition waivers to talented culinary students in need of funds to pursue their education.
Finalists for the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards will be honored at one of two ceremonies in New York City. On May 2, food journalists, book authors, broadcast producers, and others will be honored at the exclusive James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Awards ceremony. Followed by a public event on May 5, the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony and Gala Reception, which will feature well-known Food Network personalities, such as Ted Allen and Chef Mario Batali, as Master of Ceremonies and Gala Chef Chair, respectively. This event will be open and accessible to the public.
By Leigh Haugh