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TAPrice

When did James Beard awards start?

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Does someone know when the James Beard awards started? I thought it was 1989. On the James Beard foundation website, though, they have awards going back as far as the 1960s. It looks like the earlier awards were for cookbooks only.

The foundation wasn't started until 1986, so I'm unclear on who was giving the awards. Just James himself?


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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quirky little bit of history: Back in the day before the James Beard Awards, there was a cookbook competition called the IACP/Seagrams awards that was judged by an independent panel. At one point, the IACP wanted to bring the panel under the control of the organization. The Panel refused and, as they say in Variety, "ankled" en masse. IIRC, for a couple of years, the Seagram awards were presented independent of a sponsoring organization, before they were picked up by the Beards. The IACP started its own awards program, but as a dependent part of the organization. (some of this is hazy ... and in full disclosure, when IACP re-started its awards committee, I was on it and served for the better part of 10 years ... and in fuller disclosure, I've won several Beard Awards, but only one IACP award).

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It seems utterly bizarre, however, for the Beard Foundation to be claiming that there were Beard Awards in the 1960s. If you go to the website, they're represented as such, for example:

1969 JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION/KITCHENAID BOOK AWARDS

NOMINEES & WINNERS 

.....

BASIC

THE NEW YORK TIMES LARGE TYPE COOKBOOK*

by: Jean Hewitt

FOREIGN/REGIONAL

AMERICAN COOKING

by: Dale Brown and The Editors of Time-Life Books

SOFT COVER

SUNSET COOKBOOK OF DESSERTS

by: The Editors of Sunset Magazine

SPECIALTY - TIE

ANNEMARIES PERSONAL COOKBOOK

by: Annemarie Huste

BETTER HOMES & GARDENS COOKING FOR TWO

by: The Editors of Better Homes & Gardens

Maybe this is just a quirk of the online database, since I doubt KitchenAid was a sponsor in 1990 no less 1969 (when the Beard Foundation didn't even exist). Still, it's the sort of thing that raises eyebrows.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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it does seem odd for an organization's awards to pre-date the organization's founding by a couple of decades. i'll grant you that.

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Maybe the Foundation purchased the rights to use (for advertising purposes, with the agreement that they could attach their name to it) a bundle of things that happened in the past?

This would effectively increase (by fell swoop and contract) in the public eye the perception of their generosity and staying power/seniority in the food world.

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it does seem odd for an organization's awards to pre-date the organization's founding by a couple of decades. i'll grant you that.

Yes, that's what threw me as well. I imagined James Beard himself passing out plaques to deserving writers in the living room of his New York home. I suspect Carrot Top's explanation is more likely.

This reminds me of a chat I had with a local chef with a wicked sense of humor and a killer New Orleans accent. The guy is super-talented, but he's well aware that he'll never win a James Beard award. He said he'd love to win one, though, just so he could stand at the podium and say, "This means so much to me, because I've always admired James Bear so much. Is James here tonight? I'd like to thank him personally." And all the New York food elite would be whispering, "Oh my God, he doesn't know that James is dead." :biggrin:

Anyway, looking through the website, the awards starting going to chefs and such in 1991. Would that be the first awards ceremony, you think?


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Probably. I believe the first James Beard Awards (not counting the many awarded between 1967 and 1989) were for 1990, which means the ceremony should have been in Spring 1991.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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it's possible there was a commercial arrangement, but i think it's more likely that the claim is based on continuity of judges. It was the same committee that was doing the IACP/Seagrams as was doing the early Beards. the judges were very proprietary about their awards, which is the reason they left when IACP wanted to exercise more control. In fact, it would be interesting to compare the early IACP award winners with the early Beards. Probably the same.

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Todd, you could also email the Beard Foundation and ask for clarification. There's at least a possibility that someone there could give an authoritative answer.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Steven, this is the internet. You're not suggesting that I actually do some reporting!?!

Ok, I'll give them a call tomorrow. This came up in a story I was doing. It's not a crucial fact for the piece, but none of my sources could remember the exact year and I got curious about it.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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The guy is super-talented, but he's well aware that he'll never win a James Beard award. He said he'd love to win one, though, just so he could stand at the podium and say, "This means so much to me, because I've always admired James Bear so much. Is James here tonight? I'd like to thank him personally." And all the New York food elite would be whispering, "Oh my God, he doesn't know that James is dead."  :biggrin:

Well there is that Santa Claus aspect to the man.

And we do know that Santa Claus does live forever. :wink:

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I am sure the Beard Foundation bought the rights to the R.T. French Tastemaker Cookbook Awards.


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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This is going to date me but here's my little vignette on one of the many reasons French Mustards gave up on the awards: Back in 1983, I happened to be involved with the FM folks via a complicated problem. I had noticed that the previous year they'd given their award for Best Community Cookbook to a spiral-bound production put out by some social types in Hartford, at whose homes I had taught several classes. And these dames had included my recipes verbatim (even included pictures from my magazine articles) without giving me any credit. My editor, Fran McCullough, was so enraged, she wrote to French demanding that they revoke the award...which, of course, they wouldn't do, probably fearing they'd be sued. Meantime, Jane Frieman wrote about this plagiarism scandal in the Chicago Trib and New York magazine ran a paragraph entitled "Society Cooks May Be In The Soup!"

That same year my “The Cooking of South West France” was a French Award winner in the International category, so the company was very attentive to me and also a little scared of me, I guess. When my name was read out at the awards luncheon, the New York food press in attendance cheered loudly. At that same awards luncheon, one of the French executives made a really dumb opening speech in which he referred to "the little woman in the kitchen." Like we were still back in the 1950s! And the New York food press booed and hissed.

I remember that the PR woman for the event tried to seat me with the French execs, and I refused telling her I had come to eat with my friends, not with a bunch of businessmen I didn't know. So there was a lot of table shifting, etc., and in the end the execs split up, each one sitting at a different table. The guy at my table didn't say a single word. In fact, he looked totally terrified, as we New Yorkers gabbed away at lightning speed. We did not, I assure you, act like "little woman in gingham aprons in the kitchen"!

After that debacle and some others involving other food writers at the time, the FrenchM company evidently realized that they weren't connecting with the food press and decided to give up the award. And that, I believe, is eventually how the Beard Foundation came in, took it over, renamed it, and made it over into something that had glamour and also meaning.


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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