The James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.
The James Beard Foundation celebrates and supports the people behind America’s food culture, while pushing for new standards in the restaurant industry to create a future where all have the opportunity to thrive. Established over 30 years ago, the Foundation has highlighted the centrality of food culture in our daily lives and is committed to supporting a resilient and flourishing industry that honors its diverse communities. By amplifying new voices, celebrating those leading the way, and supporting those on the path to do so, the Foundation is working to create a more equitable and sustainable future — what we call Good Food for Good™. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the James Beard Foundation launched the Open for Good campaign to ensure that independent restaurants not only survive, but that the industry is able to rebuild stronger than before. For more information, subscribe to our Beard Bites newsletter and follow @beardfoundation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok.
The James Beard Foundation is a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in New York City.
View the James Beard Foundation's values and diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.
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
For over 30 years, the James Beard Foundation has served as a steward of great influence within the culinary industry. Over decades, the Foundation has evolved from a body celebrating gastronomy to a changemaker and thought leader, driving impact across the industry.
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.”
For decades the James Beard House hosted over 200 events annually, realizing Kump’s vision and maintaining Beard’s home as an important meeting place for America’s food community. In 2021, we launched the James Beard House Fellows program, presented by Capital One, which transforms this historic space into a hub of training and professional development for talented emerging chefs. Learn more about the Fellows.
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 the last decade, the Foundation added a range of conferences, issue summits, culinary labs, Women’s Leadership Programs, and a Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, to establish a more equitable and sustainable food system through education, advocacy, and thought leadership. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the James Beard Foundation held its inaugural Chef Action Summit at Princeton University with 150 Boot Camp alumni; had more than 400 committed restaurants and 237 leaders in its Smart Catch sustainable seafood program; and hosted its 2020 Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program, reaching a class of 84 alumni since the program’s launch in 2018.
In 2020, the Foundation pivoted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to align all organizational energy and focus to the Open for Good campaign, providing critical resources and support for independent restaurants to survive, rebuild, and thrive. In April 2020, the Foundation launched the Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund, raising $4.68 million and awarding $15,000 grants to 312 independent restaurants across the country. Other Open for Good campaign elements include public safety playbooks produced in partnership with the Aspen Institute, ongoing industry support webinars, and an online hub for industry resources, mentorship, and networking. In December 2020, the Foundation launched the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans to provide $15,000 grants to diverse culinary businesses across the country. 37 grants totaling $540,000 have been disbursed as of this time, as fundraising continues. Learn more about Open for Good.
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, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.
James Beard Foundation Annual Report
The James Beard Foundation is a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Click here to view the Foundation's most recent Annual Report.