James Andrew Beard (May 5, 1903 – January 21, 1985) was an American chef and food writer. James Beard is recognized by many as the father of American gastronomy. Throughout his life, he pursued and advocated the highest standards, and served as a mentor to emerging talents in the field of the culinary arts.
James Beard’s earliest memory of food was the Lewis and Clark Exposition of 1905 when he was just two years old. Beard in his memoir recalls: “I was taken to the exposition two or three times. The thing that remained in my mind above all others — I think it marked my life — was watching Triscuits and shredded wheat biscuits being made. Isn’t that crazy? At two years old that memory was made. It intrigued the hell out of me.” Beard started his life bedridden with malaria at the age of three. Beard's sickness gave him time to eat and enjoy the food prepared by his mother and their Chinese helper. Beard's early childhood and the influence that Chinese cooking had on him helped prepare him for a later life at the forefront of culinary American chic. According to Beard he was raised by Thema and Let who instilled a passion for Chinese culture. According to David Kamp, “in 1940 — he realized that part of his mission [as a food connoisseur] was to defend the pleasure of real cooking and fresh ingredients against the assault of the Jell-O-mold people and the domestic scientists. Beard lived in France in the 1920s. Consequently, Beard experienced French cuisine at bistros. As a result of Beard's exposure and subsequent influence of French culinary culture he became a Francophile.
According to Julia Child, Beard was on the culinary road map in 1940 with the publication of his first book, Hors d’Oeuvre and Canapés.(Beard started out with a catering business in New York followed by lecturing, teaching, and writing both books and articles. Child states, “Through the years he gradually became not only the leading culinary figure in the country, but ‘The Dean of American Cuisine’.” According to the James Beard Foundation website: “In 1955, he established The James Beard Cooking School. He continued to teach cooking to men and women for the next 30 years, both at his own schools (in New York City and Seaside, Oregon), and around the country at women's clubs, other cooking schools, and civic groups. He was a tireless traveler, bringing his message of good food, honestly prepared with fresh, wholesome, American ingredients, to a country just becoming aware of its own culinary heritage.”
James Beard brought French cooking to the American middle and upper classes in the 1950s. Beard starred on T.V as a cooking personality. David Kamp notes that this show was the first cooking show on T.V. Kamp contrasts Dione Lucas’s cooking show and cooking school with that of James Beard’s. Kamp notes that Lucas and Beard’s prominence in the 1950’s marked the emergence of a New York based, nationally- and internationally-known sophisticated food culture. Kamp notes, "It was in this decade [the 1950s] that Beard made his name as 'James Beard,' the brand name, the face and belly of American gastronomy. Kamp points out that Beard was able to meet Alice B. Toklas on a trip to Paris. This is an illustration of Beard’s extensive network of fellow food celebrities that would follow him throughout his life and carry on his legacy after his death. According to Kamp, Beard entered into an endorsement project with the Green Giant canned food company. Kamp explains that Beard felt that he was a “gastronomic whore” for doing so. Apparently massed produced food that was neither fresh, local or seasonal was a betrayal of Beard’s gastronomic beliefs. However, Kamp does point out that the reason for Beards hypocrisy was rooted in his desire to pay for his cooking schools.
Beard continued throughout the rest of his career to sign endorsement deals promoting products that he might otherwise have not done so had it not been for financial constraints. In comparison Craig Claiborne, another one of America's great gastronomic figures, died in obscurity, unrecognized for his accomplishments and unknown to "anyone under the age of fifty. David Kamp contrasts Claiborne with James Beard who died in 1985 as beloved and surrounded by friends unlike Claiborne.
Beard died January 21, 1985 in New York City, New York, United States of heart failure at the age of 81. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered over the beach in Gearhart, Oregon, United States, where he spent his summers as a child.
For a time the foundation was plagued by scandal; in 2004 its head, Leonard Pickell, resigned and was imprisoned for grand larceny and in 2005 the board of trustees resigned. Since that time it has instituted a new ethics policy and selected a new president, both actions explicitly targeted at preventing further abuse.
The foundation continues to experience some financial difficulty; it has operated at a deficit for several consecutive years, though the size of that deficit has decreased since Pickell's departure.
After Beard's death in 1985, Julia Child had the idea to preserve his home in New York City as the gathering place it was throughout his life. Peter Kump, a former student of Beard's and the founder of the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), spearheaded the effort to purchase the house and create the James Beard Foundation.
Beard's renovated brownstone is located at 167 West 12th Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village. It is North America's only historical culinary center, a place where Foundation members, the press, and the general public are encouraged to savor the creations of both established and emerging chefs from across the country and around the globe.
The annual James Beard Foundation Awards are given at the industry's biggest party, part of a fortnight of activities that celebrate fine cuisine and Beard's birthday. Held on the first Monday in May, the Awards ceremony honors the finest chefs, restaurants, journalists, cookbook authors, restaurant designers, and electronic media professionals in the country. It culminates in a reception featuring a tasting of the signature dishes of more than 30 of the James Beard Foundation's very best chefs.
A quarterly magazine, Beard House, is a comprehensive compendium of the best in culinary journalism. The foundation also publishes the James Beard Foundation Restaurant Directory, a directory of all chefs who have either presented a meal at the Beard House or have participated in one of the foundation's out-of-House fundraising events.
[Re titled in 1958 as New Barbecue Cookbook, in 1966 as Jim Beard’s Barbecue Cookbook, and in 1967 as James Beard’s Barbecue Cookbook.]
[Re titled in 1976 and 1987 (paperback) as James Beard’s New Fish Cookery.]
James Beard Award-winners: Chefs Tom Colicchio, Maria Hines, Holly Smith and Ming Tsai to Take the Great American Family Dinner Challenge.
Oct 06, 2011; The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) announced that James Beard Award-winning chefs Tom Colicchio, Maria Hines, Holly...