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Beard Foundation: Cooks' Books?


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From the level of discussion it seems that not many of your forum members have ever been to the Beard House or understand our mission

Arguably, as I stated in a more flippant manner earlier in this thread, that's because part of the problem is that they do a pretty crappy job of EXPLAINING that mission.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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In my posting yesterday about the James Beard Foundation I incorrectly stated that the New York Times had written a correction about the amount of scholarship money that was donated directly from the Foundation's general fund in the year ending March 31, 2003. In fact, they were correct in stating that this amount was $27,000. This, as mentioned before, is in addition to the over $200,000 that the Foundation administers and raises largely through fundraising efforts.

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As I kind of alluded to (also in a flippant manner) earlier, I believe the problem of explaining the mission is one of what in Japan would be called "tatemae" and "honne", or loosely translated for this context - "formal mission" and "de facto mission". As a non-profit, the Beard House must present itself on the surface as an organization engaged primarily in charitable activities. On the other hand, the informal understanding of many who engage in its activities is that it is a promotional vehicle for the culinary industry. And with regards to the de facto mission, it has served the industry very, very well, which is why many people, including myself and presumably most on this board would be sad to see it disabled or go under.

However, trying to clarify its mission leaves the organization in an untenable position, since it would have to starkly expose the uneasy coexistence between its formal position as a non-profit and the actual activities it undertakes. This in turn could undermine support for the organization from all sides. . .

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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I received a bulk e-mail on Beard Foundation letterhead signed by George Sape yesterday saying, regarding the scholarship issue:

The reporting in the media that only $29,000 of Foundation funds was given toward culinary scholarships in 2003 is incomplete. It represents the amount the Foundation awarded in scholarships specifically from its General Operating Fund. In addition to this amount, in 2003 the Beard Foundation awarded $112,250 in scholarships from money raised at out-of-House events. We also administered $70,438 worth of tuition waivers donated by culinary schools. Since 1998, the total amount of scholarship dollars awarded from money raised at out-of-House events and from the Foundation’s operating fund is $823,649.

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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First, Phyllis, welcome to the boards. I have been to the house with friends who were doing dinners there.

My question is why does the Beard Foundation only support the education of future culinarians with only $27,000? All the other monies is from other sources, so that does not count in the Beard Foundation total. That seems like such a little amount for such an important organization.

Larry Gober

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Even $200K out of $4.7 million doesn't seem like much, but it's better.

I believe "admisters" 200K is a lot different than "contributed" itself. Meaning--if I understand from Moskin --that, for instance, CIA comes up with its own money for Beard selected or named recipient(s). Big difference. The basic math (4.7 million in--27,000 back) remains the same.

Clarification?

abourdain

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Welcome to eGullet, Phyllis. Thanks for reading and posting. I hope that you explore and enjoy the discourse on things culinary that we do here.

Since you're the JBF's Director of Information Services, how about answering a few questions about how things work there so that we can proceed on a firm foundation of facts rather than rampant speculation?

To get things started, what is the relationship between the Board and the membership in the Foundation's organizational structure? I've been a member for a couple of years and have never noticed an invitation to any board meetings or other organizational functions in any of the correspondence I've received from the Foundation.

Who sits on the program committee, and how are they chosen?

How would a plain old ordinary member who, in their travels, runs across a chef worthy of notice go about nominating that chef for a slot on the program calendar?

Those are just the first few inquiries off the top of my head... I hope others with questions also chime in and we get a good factual basis established from which to continue the overarching conversation about the Foundation and its mission.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Another article in the New York Times, this time focusing on the turmoil at the James Beard Awards Committee in the face of recently publicised James Beard Foundation financial management problems:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/22/dining/22BEAR.html

Seven judges, all journalists from prominent publications, have resigned from the 18-member committee that oversees the awards for restaurants and chefs, and three more have said they are close to doing so. Hundreds of journalists serve as judges on other Beard committees, and many say they will soon be forced to follow if the foundation, which pays about half the cost of the million-dollar awards program, cannot adequately answer the ethical and financial questions still facing its board.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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To almost quote poet prophet Gill Scott Heron: " Wake up (Beardies)--or we're ALL through!!"

Let's put it this way: If the Beard House was any restaurant in the world, there'd be a lotta people looking for work today.The Nixon strategy ain't working.

abourdain

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Favorite quotes from today's excellent update on the gang-rush to the lifeboats on the SS Beard:

Ruth Reichl:

"..it certainly doesn't need a million dollar awards gala."

"I'm so disturbed by the notion that the board knew about this situation for months and didn't reach out to us (the restaurant committee). "

"Chefs are the most generous people on earth and I can't stand the idea that their generosity was being abused."

Mario Batali:

" I vote on best chef Southeast with perhaps never having eaten at any of the contending chefs' restaurants, which in truth results in little more than a popularity contest."

abourdain

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A woman I knew for a short while went to work for the Beard Foundation when it started. It sounded like BS to me then, and it has from then until now. It's institutionalized hedonism, or pleasure subsidized by the IRS. It seems to me that it was nothing more than an eating club that didn't have to pay taxes and a way to get cut-rate meals. Super Mario hit the nail on the head about the awards. They're also a joke. Next to non-profit groups that support struggling orchestras, ballet companies, theatre groups, and so forth, the Beard Society seems irrelevant. I don't see the NEA handing out grants to chefs. If chefs want to have a peer group that won't be exploited, as French chefs do, that strikes me as perfectly legitimate. Actually, I'm surprised that the Beard Foundation rambled along as long as it has before having its legitimacy called into question.

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From the level of discussion it seems that not many of your forum members have ever been to the Beard House or understand our mission. Many people forget that The James Beard Foundation has been instrumental in launching the careers of many of today's top chefs, let alone in helping to create the industry.  Becoming a chef was not a popular career choice fifteen years ago.

Cabrales mentioned a long time ago that a member may have very limited access to events at the JBH. "Subject to availability" means that premium donors, named chefs, and wealthy benefactors get first crack at tickets. The entry level $125 donor may not have access to any premium events during a year. Nothing wrong with that, but it does reinforce the elitism so obvious in their other activities.

I'd also question the "launching" part of the assertion. It's my understanding that most chefs pay their own way, pay for materials, and donate the honorarium back to the JBH.

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Phyllis touts the Greens program, to pull in younger members--but I duly signed up online about a year ago, and still have not been contacted. I suppose they were busy with other activities at the time...

In my one visit to the JBHouse (as a guest of a PR firm touting its new hotel), I was astonished at the high percentage of doddering ladies in pearls and Chanel suits--certainly not the typical foodies I'd innocently expected. I huddled with the chef's wife and the PR people--more informative and fun.

Zora O’Neill aka "Zora"

Roving Gastronome

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George Sape says, "Since 1998, the total amount of scholarship dollars awarded from money raised at out-of-House events and from the Foundation’s operating fund is $823,649."

According to my calculator, that's about $137K per year, not $200K.

Even if we ignore the distinction between administering and raising scholarships, this is a dinky figure. For comparison's sake (and, admittedly, this is a loose comparison), here at the non-profit 50c3 that I run (preschool and kindergarten), we give away about $100K per year in financial aid, and our budget is about one-tenth that of JBF.

I should also add that our typical staff fare has "low-fat butter flavored" written on the bag and takes 2 min 30 sec to prepare in the microwave.

edited for punctuation

Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Bill Daley at the Chicago Tribune wrote a piece about this today, in which several Chicago chefs, including a few Beard Award winners, chime in...

The James Beard Foundation may be listing in the wake of a financial scandal, but most Chicago chefs aren't ready to jump away from the nation's premier gastronomic organization just yet.

"It's like a sock in the eye," said chef Charlie Trotter. "It's not the end of the world."

Foundation retains loyalty despite scandal

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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  • 2 months later...

The New York Post has a short piece about Mr. Pickell's release on $800,000 bail, including his comments on the food he had in jail over the weekend.

A portly Len Pickell, who maintains it's all a misunderstanding, described his dinner as "mashed potatoes and two hockey pucks that were supposed to be breaded veal cutlets."

When asked how many stars he would award the meal, he said, "I would say it was a starless meal."

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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Looks like the dam of denial has finally broken.

From today's New York Times (by Julia Moskin):

A journalist who is helping to separate the James Beard Foundation's prestigious restaurant awards from the troubled organization said yesterday that the group's chairman had told him that all of its 11 trustees would soon be replaced.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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