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James Beard Awards 2020-2021 Audit Recommendations

Read recommendations here.

When was the Awards audit conducted?
The James Beard Foundation announced in August 2020 that the James Beard Awards were undergoing an audit of policies and procedures. The audit took place between August 2020 and August 2021. The audit outcomes were announced in September 2021.

What were the goals of the audit?
The audit objectives were to continue the work to remove any systemic bias, increase the diversity of the voting body, ensure that communities far and wide know about the Awards and how eligible candidates may apply, increase transparency in how the Awards function, implement a system to address ethical violations, ensure clearer guidelines for scoring protocols and handling results, and align the Awards more outwardly with the Foundation’s mission and values. The key areas of focus included a code of ethics; composition of the voting body; criteria for winners; and developing policies and procedures for unforeseen events. 

What are the outcomes of the audit?
The outcomes of the audit include an overhaul of policies and procedures in order to increase transparency, accessibility and consistency in the process; the creation of a code of ethics; new committee terms; a goal to increase diversity in the voting body; and a new Awards mission that is aligned with the Foundation’s values. To see more details, please visit this page.

When will the changes to the Awards policies and procedures be implemented? 
The first post-audit James Beard Awards will take place in 2022 with open entry being from October 12 to November 30, 2021. All changes will be implemented for the 2022 Awards cycle.  

Who was involved in the audit?
The Awards Committee and Subcommittees, Board of Trustees, and members of the James Beard Foundation staff. EY, Rally, and Postelsia were brought on to consult on issues related to protocols and process, equity, and sustainability. In addition, Debevoise and Plimpton provided legal guidance during the process. Lastly, members from the food and food media industries gave their feedback at different points throughout the process.

Will there be further changes to the Awards process?
Yes. The Foundation and the Awards committee and subcommittee members will continue to assess, debrief, learn, and refine areas in the Awards process to continuously improve the program for the communities it serves. This process is ongoing and policies and procedures will be reviewed every year to develop improvements. 

Awards Process General Information

Who is the voting body?
The voting body for the Awards comprises experts in their fields selected by the subcommittee for each Awards program. For example, the Book Awards subcommittee selects the judges for the Book Awards from a national pool of authors, editors, and other professionals in the publishing field who do not have books up for Awards during the year that they are judging. The judges review the entries and vote with ballots and judging forms. The ballots are then tallied by an independent accounting firm.  

Who can enter?
The Awards are open to any and all entrants who meet the qualifications of each program. The James Beard Awards committee and subcommittee members acknowledge and welcome entries and entrants from all backgrounds, who represent the true diversity of talent that exists in the culinary and food media landscape.  

We receive thousands of entries from across the United States, and for certain Award programs, beyond. The eligibility requirements are different for each Awards program. Click here to find links to each program’s full criteria. For those Awards that have a fee (namely, Book, Journalism, and Broadcast) the Foundation has reduced the standard fee and also created a grant to allow more access to the program available during the entire Open Call for Entry period. 

Let’s talk about the alignment statement.
As part of the audit and in collaboration with our committee members, we added the alignment statement to the Awards process to further our goal of ensuring that the Awards program is aligned with the mission of the Awards—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 Awards mission is connected to the values of the Foundation

  • Equity: We acknowledge inequities; we work to ensure that everyone—regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, or religion—has the opportunity to thrive.
  • Transparency: We are open and honest about the ever-evolving nature of creating a more equitable industry and invite others into the process.
  • Respect: We recognize and honor the dignity that each person (business owners, workers, and consumers) brings to the industry. All people deserve to feel respected, safe, and supported in the workplace and have the same access to opportunities as anyone else in the industry.
  • Integrity: We strive to do the right thing and stand boldly in our convictions.
  • Community: We recognize that people flourish when resources and opportunities are accessible and supported by meaningful networks and collaborations.
  • Passion: We care deeply and authentically about our industry, about the craft and culture of “Good Food,” and about America’s food culture and leadership.

The alignment statement is an opportunity for an entrant (or someone on that entrant’s behalf), to provide context to their entry and explain how their work reflects one or more of the commitments and/or listed values. 
 
Examples of alignment statements include writing about a cuisine in a way that acknowledges its history, creating a dining experience that enhances and serves the community, among numerous other ways. 

Should the alignment statement be about the work or the person’s political views?  
It should be about the entrant’s work—this is a chance for you to express who you are or what your work is, and for the voting body to be more fully aware of your efforts.

How’s it going to be judged? What’s this 0-10 scale all about?
It’s important to note that the statements will be reviewed for their content, and not for their production value or language fluency. 

The voting body will score them based on this content. Please note: They are one piece of the puzzle that will be considered when the committee and voting body reviews entries; other criteria will weigh more. 
 
This is the first year we are asking for alignment statements, and we will assess their impact after presenting the 2022 Awards. This work is a process, and we are committed to refining the Awards to improve the program for the communities they serve.

Will the Foundation change its vetting process for entries and recommendations for Awards programs?
As part of the Awards updated entry eligibility and criteria, all Awards entrants and recommended entrants must describe how they or their work is aligned with one or more of the Awards mission and the Foundation’s values – centered around creating a more equitable, sustainable, and healthy work culture. These answers will be included and considered in the judging process. The Foundation will continue to screen and vet semifinalists and nominees using an external consultant. 

How are the Awards financed?
The Awards are a program of the James Beard Foundation, which means the trustees of the Foundation have overall fiduciary responsibility for them. Sponsorship, entry fees, Awards ceremony ticket sales, and advertising sales are intended to cover the cost of the Awards program, which includes fees for the independent auditors, administrative costs for the Awards program, and the ceremony and auxiliary event production costs. Net revenues from the Awards go towards funding the Foundation’s portfolio of impact programs and initiatives that support the industry. 

How do I enter?
Click here to enter the Awards during the open call for recommendations period (typically in October and November). Further instructions and criteria can be found on the entry link on the website.

How do I know if I'm eligible?
Review the program eligibility criteria below information on eligibility and a list of categories for the current Awards cycle. 


Can you win a James Beard Foundation Award if you haven’t participated in a James Beard Foundation event?
Yes. Every step is taken to ensure that the Awards are open to all eligible candidates and administered fairly. James Beard Foundation staff members are not allowed to vote on the Awards. Trustees do not vote, except in limited circumstances, such as special Awards, where the Trustee is a member of the Awards Committee, as per the Awards Charter. And although we are extremely grateful to everyone who participates in our events, those events are in no way related to the Awards process. 

Is there anything an entrant can do to increase their chances of winning?
Besides performing to the best of their abilities, and demonstrating alignment to the Foundations values, there's nothing anyone can do to affect the outcome of an Award. We hear stories of people campaigning for various Awards, but our Awards are voted on by committee members and judges; popular vote does not influence the results.

Are James Beard Foundation trustees eligible for an Award?
No. James Beard Foundation Trustees are not eligible to win a James Beard Foundation Award (nor can they influence the voting in any way). Trustees must sign a conflict of interest statement that affirms that they or their relatives, or any business in which they are a majority partner will not be eligible for an Award.

What about staff?
No. As with the trustees, all management and staff sign a conflict of interest statement that affirms that they or their relatives, or any business in which they are a majority partner will not be eligible for an Award.
The James Beard Foundation Staff, including the Awards Team, does not vote, vet, or influence any outcomes of the Awards. 

Is the Foundation’s public relations firm subject to any Awards restrictions?
Yes. Wagstaff Media & Marketing employees who provide services to the Foundation may not assist candidates or entrants in creating, advising on, reviewing or submitting any  entries, applications or other materials required for Awards consideration. However, Wagstaff employees who do not provide services to the Foundation may assist their clients with drafting applications. Where a Wagstaff employee has provided services to the Foundation and a potential Awards candidate or entrant, such employee will re-assign their non-Foundation client work to another Wagstaff team member.

Who gets to see the results of the Awards? 
The Foundation engages an independent accounting firm to tally votes. With the exception of committee-chosen Awards, no one sees the results except for an external fact checker, third-party vetter, and a very limited number of personnel related strictly to the production of the Awards a limited number of days before the ceremony. All are required to sign an NDA.

Can sponsors affect the outcome?
No. Sponsors do not take part in judging or determining any Awards policies.

Is the Foundation's public relations firm subject to any Awards restrictions?
Yes. Wagstaff Worldwide employees who provide services to the Foundation may not assist candidates or entrants in creating, advising on, reviewing or submitting any entries, applications, or other materials required for Awards consideration. However, Wagstaff employees who do not provide services to the Foundation may assist their clients with drafting applications. Where a Wagstaff employee has provided services to the Foundation and a potential Awards candidate or entrant, such employee will re-assign their non-Foundation client work to another Wagstaff team member.

​​Will you be rescinding previous winner awards if allegations have been made against them? 
At this time the Foundation will not rescind Awards that have been issued in the past. The Foundation has prioritized making sure the Awards moving forward are fair, transparent and accessible, and that there is a clear process to handle allegations made about potential winners or member of the voting body. Over the next few months, an independent volunteer Ethics Committee will be established to address such allegations. The Ethics Committee will be responsible for establishing policies and procedures for vetting, conducting fair and impartial review of allegations, and will function independently from the Awards Committee, subcommittee members, and the Foundation’s staff, including its Awards team. This committee will report to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees’ Governance Committee. The committee is currently being formulated and will comprise five to six members with a range of professional backgrounds that include law and ethics. In addition, all future Awards will be issued with a brand license that stipulates code of ethics. Any breach will result in the recipient not being able to use the James Beard Awards association. The policy will be finalized in the next cycle of the Awards.  

How will JBF address allegations against future potential winners? 
See above

What do James Beard Foundation Award winners receive?
Winners receive a medallion, a certificate reflecting the winning entrant, and recognition on the James Beard website. The Humanitarian of the Year honoree also receives a $20,000 prize to further the honoree’s work, kindly funded by the Michael Phillips Humanitarian Fund.

All Awards program semifinalists, nominees, and winners must comply with the James Beard Awards usage marks and guidelines.

What are the plans for the 2022 Awards?
The Restaurant and Chef awards ceremony will take place on June 13, 2022, in Chicago. Dates and details for the Leadership and Media ceremonies to be announced. Dates of eligibility for the 2022 Awards cycle are January 2020 to December 2021.  News about the Awards will be regularly updated and posted to jamesbeard.org/awards and on the Foundation’s social channels (@beardfoundation on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #jbfa). The changes resulting in the audit go into effect in early October for the launch of the 2022 call for entry period.

Historical Information

What are the James Beard Awards?
The James Beard Awards, aka the James Beard Foundation Awards, are considered the food industry’s highest honor. Time magazine called them “the Oscars of the food world.” Through the Awards we promote good food for good™ by recognizing those who are making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. Awards are given within six main categories: Restaurant and Chef, Book, Journalism, Broadcast, and Leadership. 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.

When did the James Beard Awards start?
The James Beard Awards were established in 1990; the first ceremony took place in 1991. 

Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America
The Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America was started in 1984 by Cook’s Magazine and Restaurant Business. The James Beard Foundation took them into the fold in 1990. In light of new directives for inclusion and diversity, in 2018 the Who’s Who award was retired. Extant members at that time were memorialized and archived on the James Beard Foundation website.

Restaurant Design Awards
The first Restaurant Design Awards were given out in 1995 as an Awards program with categories such as Outstanding Restaurant Design and Design Icon. The program was retired after the 2020 Awards. 

Awards Event General Information

Where can I find information on the Awards event and the broadcast?
Visit the Awards events page for relevant event details, including broadcast information. 

I'm a journalist who wants to cover the James Beard Awards. Who should I contact?
For press-related inquiries, please visit the Awards contact page

Can I volunteer at the Awards?
If you’re interested in becoming an event volunteer, please fill out the form here.

 

Please sign up for our newsletter for upcoming updates on the Awards, events, and programming. Have more questions about the James Beard Awards? Contact our team at awards@jamesbeard.org

James Beard Foundation reserves the right to update and make changes that do not affect the integrity of the Awards and its operating procedures.