When it comes to the culinary world, most people only refer to what they see on TV or read on the magazines to find out “The Who” in the industry.
By “The Who” we mean: The Best Chef, the Best Restaurant, The Best Food Writer or Blogger, or The Best Recommended of a great place to dine in.
What most people do not know is that as much as Hollywood has The Oscars to acknowledge their best celebrities, the culinary world has the James Beard Awards that recognizes Restaurants and Chefs to continue upholding the American culture thru its diverse forms of tastes and cookery.
What is James Beard Award
The James Beard Award is the offspring of the James Beard Foundation funded posthumously by James Beard’s friends to continue his legacy.
James Beard is a renowned chef, cookbook writer, and restaurateur who started recognizing the best chefs and restaurants in 1990.
This foundation aims to support aspiring chefs in America through their scholarships and internships offered for them. Since they started giving awards, the James Beard Foundation has grown to be the most prestigious award giving body in the culinary world that most people equate it as the Oscars of Culinary Arts and since 1990 has produced hundreds of chefs that continue inspiring others with their craft.
James Beard Foundation Awards
Annually, this award giving body publicizes a long list of winners from the different regions in America. Specifically those who exhibited excellence in cuisine and culinary arts and education that they have set standards and made contributions to the growth of the culinary culture in America.
So why is this of great importance across all chefs in the country?
Simply because winning this award turns any chef’s world 360 degrees. This award practically does wonders by skyrocketing any cook’s career.
In fact, a huge percentage of winners are no longer connected to the restaurants they won an award in.
However, winning this award is tough. Winners are chosen by people of their own. In order to win the awards, a chef must pass the criteria of over 250 judges. That’s right, 250 judges that fairly represent all the regions in the country.
After making it to the top 5, the winner is chosen by the Restaurant and Chef Award Committee.
Here are the different award categories:
- Rising Star Chef of the Year
Nominees for this award must be 30 years old or young and “With impressive talent and will make significant contributions in the years to come”
- Outstanding Chef
This is given to “A working chef in America whose career set national industry standards and who has served inspiration to others”
- Best New Restaurant
This is for restaurants that have previously opened for 12 months but has “already showed excellence in food, beverage, and service”
- Outstanding Restaurant
To qualify as a nominee, the restaurant must at least be 10 years in existence and “Must be a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service.
- Outstanding Service
It’s tough to look for the qualifications for this area but 50% of its winners subsequently won the Outstanding Restaurant Award.
If you want a bigger chance to winning any of the awards in the Restaurant Category it may actually be a factor if you have a Michelin Star beforehand.
Also, there is no shortcut to winning the award. It is not something you can actually win annually. It takes some period in a chef’s career.
Aside from being a good cook, one must also be a leader in his field.
Contrary to hearsay, one’s participation to any of the activities of the foundation nor relationship with anyone connected to James Beard Foundation do not affect the outcome. According to the committee, the only best shot one has to winning is by performing his absolute best.
Aside that there are over 200 judges to select the finalists that make sure each name that appears on the list actually represents their region well and has contributed a standard, the final say goes to the committee. They choose the person who will win the award.
How qualified are they?
They are experts in the culinary industry with a great deal of knowledge and ethics with journalistic distance. This means that these are quality chefs, writers, and reviewers that do not choose winners just to get free food.
The James Beard Foundation awards accepts nominations yearly on Mid-October and ends in December. This is done to enforce their mission of celebrating, nurturing, and honoring the country’s culinary heritage through their different programs that aim to educate and to inspire.