Awards Code of Ethics

The mission of the James Beard Awards is to recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.

The James Beard Foundation takes our mission and our position as an industry leader very seriously, and we strive to ensure that Award recipients demonstrate excellence and align with our values.

As part of these efforts, we have established a Code of Ethics, a vetting process that occurs prior to any announcements of semifinalists or nominees, and an independent ethics process. Please find further information below.

Read our statement on the 2023 Awards and the ethics process.

The James Beard Foundation, its Awards committee, and members of the subcommittees have established a Code of Ethics that is applicable to all Entrants, Semifinalists, Nominees, and Winners, as well as its voting body.

As a condition of eligibility for a James Beard Foundation Award, all Entrants, Semifinalists, Nominees, and Winners agree that they have acted and will continue to act in a manner that is consistent with the Code of Ethics and the values of the James Beard Foundation and its Awards Program.   

The following is a non-exhaustive list of behaviors and practices that are antithetical to the values of the James Beard Foundation and its Awards program:   

  • Inhumane, exploitative, or unlawful workplace practices, including but not limited to: 

    • Stealing of wages or tips 

    • Retaliation against workers who raise legitimate concerns 

  • Sexism, racism, or other discriminatory behavior, including but not limited to: 

    • Harassment 

    • Discriminatory or racist jokes and language  

    • Sharing of sexually explicit or violent material 

  • Violent or abusive behavior, including but not limited to:  

    • Threats of violence or violent behavior 

    • Bullying through conduct, often recurring, that exploits power imbalances in relationships to cause harm 

    • Improper use of social media to target persons or groups of people  

  • Misrepresentation of material facts, including fabrication, plagiarism, or false claims of ownership 

In addition, Entrants, Semifinalists, Nominees, and Winners must comply with all applicable federal and local laws, including those regarding fraud, bribery, corruption, assault, and child labor. 

A credible allegation of violating the Code of Ethics may disqualify an Entrant, Semifinalist, or Nominee from consideration for a JBF Award or result in a Semifinalist, Nominee, or Winner being prohibited from using the seal, logo, or image of the James Beard Awards and from claiming any recognition from the Foundation in connection with the Awards.  


Our Vetting Process

Before any announcements are made, we engage an external firm that conducts initial vetting of potential award nominees, flagging anything inconsistent with the Foundation’s values. The steps are outlined below:   

  • This process involves conducting public records searches for clear and obvious existing violations of the Code of Ethics.
  • This is conducted by an outside firm engaged by the Foundation.
  • The firm reviews the lists of potential Semifinalists, Nominees, and Winners before they are published.
  • The results are reported to the Governance Committee of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees for review.


Independent Ethics Committee

In 2020, the Foundation took a year out of the Awards to consider how to do things better. We worked with outside experts and key stakeholders—including members of the Foundation’s Awards committees, which are made up of volunteers from within the broader food, restaurant, and media industries—to overhaul our policies and procedures. 

In 2021, JBF conducted an audit of its Awards program, which resulted in many enhancements, including the implementation of a Code of Ethics and the creation of an independent Ethics Committee, established by the Board of Trustees, to independently review allegations of a breach of the Code of Ethics by an Award candidate.

JBF prioritized fairness, thoroughness, and empathy in this process, understanding that everyone deserves a chance to be heard.

The ethics process allows for the subcommittees and judges – the voting body – to focus on the Awards process, including voting for nominees and winners.

Alleged breaches of the Foundation’s Code of Ethics are reviewed by the Ethics Committee, an independent group of experts that reports and makes recommendations to the Governance Committee of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.  The Ethics Committee operates independently from the Awards Committee, subcommittee members, and the Foundation’s staff, including its Awards team. 

Given the Awards Program’s timing, the Ethics Committee is able to act on information related to a 2024 James Beard Award Entrant, Semifinalist, or Nominee only if received by the following dates:  

  • For the Restaurant and Chef Awards: May 7
  • For the Media Awards: May 21  

For further context, the Ethics Committee’s review process focuses primarily on compliance with the Code of Ethics during the current Awards cycle (that is, the year preceding the Awards through the present).  However, behavior from earlier in time may warrant consideration, depending on its seriousness and the extent to which a candidate has remedied it.  

Note that the Foundation may disqualify or take other action against an Entrant, Semifinalist, Nominee, or Winner without publicly announcing the Foundation’s decision or making changes to any previously announced list of Semifinalists, Nominees, or Winners to reflect disqualification. 


Ethics Committee

Members of the Ethics Committee have a range of experiences in and knowledge of ethics, law, internal investigation best practices, perspectives from a whistleblower point of view, work force rights, and civil rights.  

  • Chair, Aaron Tidman, Director, Compliance & Investigations, Pinterest
  • Vice Chair, Michael McCray, Attorney; Founder, Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival  
  • Vice Chair, Susan Ringler, Former Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, International Rescue Committee  
  • Luna Droubi, Partner, Beldock, Levine & Hoffman  
  • Ruth Faden, Founder and Wagley Professor of Biomedical Ethics, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University  
  • Jim Mintz, Founder, Mintz Group 

Review by Ethics Committee

  • Alleged breaches of the Foundation’s Code of Ethics are reviewed in the first instance by the Ethics Committee.
  • When the Ethics Committee receives a report alleging that a candidate has violated the Code of Ethics, the Committee directs outside counsel in gathering information. 
  • Although individuals may submit such a report to the Ethics Committee anonymously, the Committee does not make decisions based solely on reports, whether a reporter is anonymous or has self-identified. All allegations must be corroborated, whether through witness interviews, public records, or other documents. 
  • Allegations may be made anonymously; however, in some cases, fully anonymous reporting may limit the Ethics Committee’s ability to proceed with a review due to a lack of sufficient information and the inability to follow up as needed.
  • If after reviewing all of the information gathered by their team, the Ethics Committee determines that an allegation is not substantiated, the matter is closed with no further action.
  • In any matter in which the Ethics Committee considers recommending that the Foundation take action, the Committee will direct outside counsel to contact the subject in order to provide the subject an opportunity to respond to the allegations against them.
  • Unless the Ethics Committee, in its initial review, finds an allegation to be unsubstantiated, the subject of the allegations is always provided with the opportunity to be interviewed, as well as to provide the names of witnesses and any documentation or other information for the Committee to consider before reaching its recommendation. 

Confidentiality of the Ethics Process Concerning Specific Cases

Our primary goal is protecting the integrity of the Awards program while being fair to those it seeks to celebrate. In fairness to all participants, we generally do not comment on particular cases, including why individuals do or do not move forward in the awards process.  

The Ethics Committee may disqualify or take other action against a candidate without publicly announcing the decision or making changes to any previously announced list.

At this time, the Foundation does not intend to rescind Awards that have been issued but reserves the right to do so in extraordinary circumstances.  

Please note that any allegation that a member of the voting body violated the Code of Ethics is addressed by the Governance Committee of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

How to Submit a Report

As stated above, the Awards Code of Ethics applies to all Entrants, Semifinalists, Nominees, and Winners, and its voting body.

To report allegations involving a potential breach of the Code of Ethics by a 2024 James Beard Award Entrant, Semifinalist, Nominee, or Winner, please click here.

To report a concern or allegations involving a potential breach of the Code of Ethics by a voting body member (committee member or judge), please click here.  Please note that your report is for the Governance Committee, which reviews allegations against members of the voting body. 

James Beard Foundation staff, Awards committee and subcommittee members, and judges are not involved in the Governance and Ethics Committee’s decision-making process.  

We will continue to monitor and assess our current processes and to identify and implement additional enhancements.