The James Beard Foundation is a New York City-based national non-profit culinary arts organization named in honor of James Beard, a prolific food writer, teacher, and cookbook author, who was also known as the "Dean of American Cookery." The Foundation's mission is to celebrate, nurture, and honor America's diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire. The programs run the gamut from elegant guest-chef dinners to scholarships for aspiring culinary students, educational conferences, and industry awards. In the spirit of James Beard's legacy, the Foundation not only creates programs that help educate people about American cuisine, but also support and promote the chefs and other industry professionals who are behind it.
The Foundation was started in 1986 by Peter Kump, a former student of James Beard and founder of the Institute of Culinary Education. At Julia Child's suggestion, Kump purchased Beard's New York brownstone at 167 West 12th Street in Greenwich Village and preserved it as a gathering place where the general public and press alike are able to appreciate the talents of established and emerging chefs. The first such dinner was at the suggestion of Wolfgang Puck in 1987. Puck cooked a dinner to raise money and Kump later established it into a monthly event.
Leonard F. Pickell, Jr. was nominated as president of the Foundation in 1995. He later resigned in August 2004, shortly before the results of a three-month audit were to be announced. He was convicted of fraud in late September, having misused hundreds of thousands of dollars for unnecessary and undocumented expenses. As a result of the scandal and his indictment by the Attorney General's Office, the members of the board of the foundation were asked to resign in January 2005.
In January 2006, the reconstituted board, under the direction of interim president Edna Morris, initiated a search for a permanent president of the Foundation. In April that year Susan Ungaro, formerly editor-in-chief of Family Circle magazine, was appointed president. Following the scandal, the foundation also made changes such as creating a salary for the president, CFO, auditors and a larger staff. The Foundation lost about $1 million under Pickell’s leadership as well as hire lawyers and accountants for approximately $750,000. Sponsorships, donations, and event revenues also dropped after the scandal broke prompting the foundation to take out a $2 million mortgage on the Beard home, the only asset.
In October 2007, the board announced that Woodrow W. Campbell, senior partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, would be taking over chairmanship of the board after the resignation of Dorothy Cann Hamilton who served since 2005.
Emily Luchetti, two-time James Beard Award–winning executive pastry chef and multiple cookbook author, was named chair of the Foundation’s board of trustees in May 2012, succeeding Woodrow W. Campbell. In 2012, the Foundation also announced the following appointments: Michael Phillips, chief operating officer, Jamestown Properties, and Frederic M. Seegal, vice chairman, Peter J. Solomon Company, as the board’s new vice chairs; Erica Gruen, a principal with Quantum Media Consulting, remained secretary.
In March 2011, Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation was appointed as advisory member of the International School of Culinary Arts, Spain. As of January 2014, Susan Ungaro serves on the board of directors of Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP USA) and on the advisory board of Food Bank for New York Culinary Council. Since her presidency, Susan Ungaro expanded the Foundation’s culinary scholarship program; increased its membership base with a new online enrollment program; brought the annual James Beard Foundation Awards Gala to the prestigious Lincoln Center; and hosted the James Beard Foundation’s traveling national food festival, Taste America.
In September 2012, Susan Ungaro collaborated with the U.S. Department of State to develop the “Diplomatic Culinary Partnership,” an initiative to elevate the role of culinary engagement in America’s formal and public diplomacy efforts. During her tenure, Susan Ungaro spearheaded the annual James Beard Foundation Food Conference to foster dialogue and action to improve our nation’s food system. In addition, the Foundation launched the inaugural James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards in 2011, which recognizes visionaries in the business, government, and education sectors who are creating a healthier, safer, and more sustainable food world. The Women in Culinary Leadership Program, Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, and the launch of JBF Greens membership have also been initiated.
Each year, the James Beard House hosts over 200 dinners featuring selected, acclaimed chefs who prepare tasting menus in the Beard House kitchen, which diners can pass through and observe. Notable past chefs have included Daniel Boulud, Emeril Lagasse, Nobu Matsuhisa, Jacques Pépin, Marcus Samuelsson, and Charlie Trotter. These events are open to the public, with dining discounts for Foundation members.
James Beard Foundation Greens events are for New York City–area food lovers between the ages of 21 and 39. Greens guests get to discover the city’s newest restaurants, chefs, and culinary trends, all while enjoying great food and drinks. While these events are open to the public, a JBF Greens membership entitles you to reduced pricing for all events, early access to event booking, entrance to special members-only gatherings, and many other great benefits. Held at numerous dynamic venues throughout the five boroughs, Greens events include wine tastings, multi-course dinners, and From Scratch Sessions, our series of hands-on cooking classes and demos.
The James Beard Foundation Awards, considered the "Oscars of the food world" are held annually to honor exceptional chefs and journalists. The premier Awards gala is held on the first Monday in May and features a ceremony and a chef's tasting reception. The Foundation's awards for journalism, books, and other media are held on a separate day. In 2014, the board elected to move the Restaurant and Chef Awards from Lincoln Center in New York to Chicago after Chicago appealed to the foundation to move the event.
In 1991, the James Beard Foundation began offering scholarships for students entering a variety of fields, including culinary studies, pastry and baking, hotel and restaurant management, wine studies, nutrition, and food writing. Since its inception, the program has awarded over $4.6 million in financial aid.Bimonthly JBF Events — What's going on at the James Beard House in NYC and at events around the country
Bimonthly JBF Notes — A members-only newsletter about trends in the food world, recipes, and more
Biweekly Beard Bites — A digital newsletter with information about upcoming events and Foundation news.
Monthly Previews — A monthly digital publication that gives three months’ advance notice of events. It is available as a benefit to high-level members, beginning at the Fellowship level.
Delights and Prejudices — The official JBF blog, featuring Foundation news, recipes, and original content.
The Good Food Org Guide — A comprehensive directory of nonprofit organizations that are working toward a better food system published in partnership with Food Tank.