The James Beard Foundation media awards will be presented next week. This column is not in the running, presumably because before today I didn’t know there was a James Beard award for media.
I thought the award was exclusively for chefs and restaurants (of course Aspen’s Element 47 and Little Nell have been recognized, most recently for their wine program). In fact, I realize I don’t know almost anything about James, his beard, or the many elements of the James Beard Foundation. So I did a little delving into it.
Beard hosted a television show in the 1940s expressing his unabashedly foodie tendencies and sparking the same across the country. The James Beard Foundation was created after his death, to mirror the mentorship role Beard offered to many during his lifetime. The foundation includes programs like scholarships for young chefs, a woman’s leadership program and, yes, the awards.
The dining-related awards include things like restaurant design, outstanding pastry chef and an award for service. The media-related awards include things like investigative reporting and personal essay. You can check out one of the nominated best documentaries, “Chef Flynn,” on Hulu. Not surprisingly, the New York Times is a frequent nominee throughout the reporting categories. Pete Wells’ restaurant reviews are up for the award, including “‘A Celebration of Black Southern Food,’ at JuneBaby in Seattle,” his review of last year’s James Beard award winner for best new restaurant.
If you are a cookbook fan, there are 12 categories just for cookbooks, including for photography, which is always why I pick up a cookbook. One of the nominees, “Wild: Adventure Cookbook” with photos by Luisa Brimble, pairs stunning photos of Australia with dishes from all over the country. If you are getting into the Marie Kondo craze, the health and special diets section has a nugget for you: “More with Less” by Jodi Moreno keeps the ingredient list low and the taste high.
More along the food columnist track is the personal essay section. Among the nominees is “I Made the Pizza Cinnamon Rolls from Mario Batali’s Sexual Misconduct Apology Letter” by Geraldine DeRuiter, who combines thoughts on sexual harrasment, Donald Trump and pizza dough with detailed photos of the baking process.
The extensive names on the nominee list and the plentiful categories in publishing, broadcast and online media make me realize how many of us just really love talking about food. We love being part of the baking process, the eating process and the discussion during and afterward, about food or anything else that comes up at the dinner table. And now that I’ve learned more about James Beard, I realize that is what he loved, too.
Go get ’em next week, food writers of the world. The restaurateurs and chefs will be honored in May, and they will need someone to write about them.