The James Beard Chef Awards Go Democratic

Venerable institutions often suffer more than normal companies and organizations when things go wrong internally. The Red Cross took a lot of heat recently, for instance. The James Beard Foundation, too, was wracked by scandal two years ago as its director resigned in advance of his indictment for fraud, an investigation by the Attorney General’s office, and the eventual resignation of its entire board of directors.

This was a difficult blow for an organization that has a monolithic reputation as one of the primary authorities on food, food writing, cooking, and fine dining in the United States. The annual James Beard awards are often described as the Oscars™ of the food world, and with good reason. A James Beard award can often change the fortunes of a food writer or chef, but most certainly bestows the full attention of the American food-loving world for a period of time.

One of the things that has always frustrated me about the awards handed out by the organization has been the fact that the nomination process has always been effectively private. Restaurants, authors, chefs, and culinary professionals were either nominated by the Foundation, or had to nominate themselves. A process which has always left me feeling that some gems were overlooked.

That’s all about to change. Or more precisely, some of that is about to change. For the first time in history, the most prestigious of the Foundation’s awards, the restaurant, chef, and culinary professional awards, will have an open democratic nominating process.

Anyone, yes even YOU, can nominate a restaurant, chef, or sommelier for a James Beard award.

So what are you waiting for? Get started!

Nominations will be taken until December 15th. Do a good job of it, and maybe they’ll do ALL their awards this way next year.