The James Beard Foundation’s mission is to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.
The James Beard Foundation promotes good food for good™. For more than 30 years, the James Beard Foundation has highlighted the centrality of food culture in our daily lives. Through the James Beard Awards, unique dining experiences at the James Beard House and around the country, scholarships, hands-on learning, and a variety of industry programs that educate and empower leaders in our community, the Foundation has built a platform for chefs and asserted the power of gastronomy to drive behavior, culture, and policy change around food. To that end, the Foundation has also created signature impact-oriented initiatives that include our Women’s Leadership Programs aimed at addressing the gender imbalance in the culinary industry; advocacy training through our Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change; and the James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards that shine a spotlight on successful change makers. The organization is committed to giving chefs and their colleagues a voice and the tools they need to make the world more sustainable, equitable, and delicious for everyone. For more information, subscribe to the digital newsletter Beard Bites and follow @beardfoundation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The James Beard Foundation is a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in New York City.
As part of our mission to make America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone, the James Beard Foundation is dedicated to cultivating leadership, recognizing excellence, and producing results through our programs and awards. The foundation is guided by the values of respect, transparency, diversity, sustainability, and equality. We believe that in order to achieve our mission, it is expected that everyone who works in and with the foundation shares similar values and operates with integrity.
About James Beard
Anointed the “Dean of American cookery” by the New York Times in 1954, James Beard laid the groundwork for the food revolution that has put America at the forefront of global gastronomy. He was a pioneer foodie, host of the first food program on the fledgling medium of television in 1946, the first to suspect that classic American culinary traditions might cohere into a national cuisine, and an early champion of local products and markets. Beard nurtured a generation of American chefs and cookbook authors who have changed the way we eat.
James Andrew Beard was born on May 5, 1903, in Portland, Oregon, to Elizabeth and John Beard. His mother, an independent English woman passionate about food, ran a boarding house. His father worked at Portland’s Customs House. The family spent summers at the beach at Gearhart, Oregon, fishing, gathering shellfish and wild berries, and cooking meals with whatever was caught.
He studied briefly at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, in 1923, but was expelled. Reed claimed it was due to poor scholastic performance, but Beard maintained it was due to his homosexuality. Beard then went on the road with a theatrical troupe. He lived abroad for several years studying voice and theater but returned to the United States for good in 1927. Although he kept trying to break into the theater and movies, by 1935 he needed to supplement what was a very non-lucrative career and began a catering business. With the opening of a small food shop called Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc., in 1937, Beard finally realized that his future lay in the world of food and cooking.
In 1940, Beard penned what was then the first major cookbook devoted exclusively to cocktail food, Hors d’Oeuvre & Canapés. In 1942 he followed it up with Cook It Outdoors, the first serious work on outdoor cooking. Beard spent the war years with a brief stint in cryptography, but he primarily served with the United Seamen’s Service, setting up sailors’ canteens in Puerto Rico, Rio de Janeiro, Marseilles, and Panama.
When he returned to New York in 1945, Beard became totally immersed in the culinary community. Between 1945 and 1955 he wrote several seminal cookbooks (click here for a complete list). He appeared in his own segment on television’s first cooking show on NBC in 1946, and then on many other spots on television and radio. He contributed articles and columns to Woman’s Day, Gourmet, and House & Garden, served as a consultant to many restaurateurs and food producers, and ran his own restaurant on Nantucket. He became the focal point of the entire American food world.
In 1955, Beard established the James Beard Cooking School. He continued to teach cooking to men and women for the next 30 years, both at his own schools (in New York City and Seaside, Oregon), and around the country at women’s clubs, other cooking schools, and civic groups. He was a tireless traveler, bringing his message of good food, honestly prepared with fresh, wholesome, American ingredients, to a country just becoming aware of its own culinary heritage. Beard also continued to write cookbooks, most of which became classics and many of which are still in print.
When James Beard died at 81 on January 21, 1985, he left a legacy of culinary excellence and integrity to generations of home cooks and professional chefs. His name remains synonymous with American food.
- Find out more about James Beard! Watch James Beard: America’s First Foodie
- View a complete annotated list of James Beard's books
- Watch a video about James Beard courtesy of Oregon Public Broadcasting
James Beard Foundation History
A dedicated staff, a strong board of trustees, a diverse membership, hundreds of volunteers, and the sheer force of James Beard’s personality and passions have propelled the James Beard Foundation to the forefront of American gastronomy.
While he was alive, James Beard always welcomed students, authors, chefs, and other food and beverage professionals into his home—his kitchen was truly at the heart of America’s burgeoning 20th-century food scene. After his death in 1985, a group of Beard’s friends and colleagues led by cooking school founder Peter Kump heeded a call from Julia Child to do something with Beard’s house. Kump organized a fundraising campaign to purchase the Greenwich Village townhouse from Reed College, Beard’s alma mater which held his estate.
On November 5, 1986, the James Beard Foundation officially opened the James Beard House “to provide a center for the culinary arts and to continue to foster the interest James Beard inspired in all aspects of food, its preparation presentation, and of course, enjoyment,” according to a press release issued that day. Calvin Trillin presided over an opening ceremony that welcomed Jacques Pépin, Judith Jones, Larry Forgione and other culinary world luminaries who had been touched and inspired by Beard.
Although the mission of the organization would evolve over the years, Kump, who had founded a theater troupe in a previous career, initially envisioned the Beard House as a performance space for chefs. On February 1, 1987, Kump wrote a thank you note to an influential young chef working in California who was generous enough to cook a dinner at the Beard House to help the new organization raise some money. “Dear Wolf,” Kump wrote to Wolfgang Puck, “When you initially suggested coming out and cooking a dinner here it gave us the idea for starting this as a monthly event. First of all, it is a good way for the Foundation to bring in regular funds. Second, it also performs a very valuable service to our members and the food community: for the first time, the great chefs from outside the New York Metropolitan area can come here, allowing us to experience their food fully rather than just a taste in a party atmosphere. Finally, it starts a tradition for showcasing new chefs who have not yet received recognition.”
Today the Foundation hosts around 200 events at the Beard House annually, realizing Kump’s vision and maintaining Beard’s home as an important meeting place for America’s food community. See who’s visiting this month >
In 1990 the James Beard Foundation made another leap forward by establishing the James Beard Foundation Awards for excellence in the food and beverage and related industries. The first awards were given in 1991. By shining a spotlight on the people behind the food we were learning to appreciate and enjoy, the James Beard Awards preempted the era of the celebrity chef we now take for granted. See more about the Awards >
Throughout its history, the Foundation has supported the culinary arts in a variety of ways. Our robust scholarship program has distributed nearly $8 million in financial aid to talented culinary, beverage, and food system students in need of funds to pursue their education. View our current scholarships.
In recent years, the Foundation has added a range of conferences, issue summits, culinary labs, and a Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, collectively known as of Impact programs, to foster better engagement and dialogue about issues of food systems and culture in the chef community. In 2010, in anticipation of our 25th anniversary, the James Beard Foundation launched its annual food conference (now known as the Food Summit), bringing together a diverse group of thought leaders and stakeholders in the country's food system, as well as the JBF Leadership Awards, which recognizes visionaries helping to make a better, safer, more equal, and more delicious future for everyone. Learn more about the Impact programs.
As an organization, the James Beard Foundation has evolved beyond the scope of influence any one person could have had, but all the while keeping true to the ideals that James Beard professed—that is, emphasizing the importance of simple, wholesome food, good cooking, and good eating by educating, mentoring, supporting, and caring for the people who prepare and enjoy it. We continue to build on the foundation James Beard laid and seek to fulfill our mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.