The James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America is a cadre of the most accomplished food and beverage professionals in the country. Though they represent a diverse cross-section of the food and beverage industry—from chefs to journalists to farmers to business executives to scholars—each has been identified by his or her peers as having displayed remarkable talent and achievement. Every member of the Who’s Who has contributed in some substantial way to America’s constantly evolving culinary scene.
ALLAN BENTON / PORK PRODUCER AND PURVEYOR / MADISONVILLE, TN
The owner of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams, Allan Benton has been described by Saveur magazine as “one of the most respected producers in the United States.” Benton grew up in a family that raised hogs and cured their own country hams and bacon, and he has continued this tradition ever since giving up a career as a guidance counselor and purchasing a small, ramshackle ham business in 1973. Since then Benton’s hams and bacon have become the standard against which all others are measured. Slow-cured with salt, brown sugar, and sodium nitrate and aged for at least nine months, the meat maestro’s pork products are sought after by top chefs like Sean Brock, David Chang, and Hugh Acheson.
Watch the short video above, which celebrates Benton's career and aired at the 2015 James Beard Awards, and stay tuned for videos about our other 2015 inductees!