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JBF Through the Years

JBF Editors

November 09, 2017


Photo: Dan Wynn

Ever since Julia Child declared that “Something ought to be done with Jim’s house,” the James Beard Foundation has been at the center of American culinary life. Take a peek at our walk down memory lane below, and you’ll see the Foundation’s growing role as a supporter and leader in our collective gustatory zeitgeist. But after 30 years, the story of our nation’s edible odyssey is far from over, which means it’s time to strap on our aprons and head back into the kitchen. As our namesake said, “Goodness, how much there is to learn about food. Someday I hope to know something.”

January 21, 1985
James Andrew Beard dies of heart failure at the age of 81.

March 1985
Julia Child suggests, “Something ought to be done with Jim’s house.” Friend and former Beard student Peter Kump heeds her call and spearheads a fundraising campaign to purchase the James Beard House.

July 1986
The James Beard Foundation is officially incorporated.

January 21, 1987
Wolfgang Puck of Spago cooks the very first Beard House dinner. The menu includes winter greens sautéed with duck livers and grilled salmon with celery cream.

November 5, 1990
Tom Colicchio, then the chef at Mondrian in midtown Manhattan, cooks his first dinner at the Beard House. On the menu: lobster and artichoke salad with basil oil and chocolate ganache cake.

February 1991
JBF launches a scholarship program.

May 6, 1991
The first JBF Awards are held aboard the M.S. New Yorker. Writer George Plimpton hosts.

May 18, 1992
Time magazine deems the JBF Awards the "Oscars of the food world."

June 7, 2002
Marcus Samuelsson cooks his 10th dinner at the Beard House (he's now up to 25 appearances!).

April/May 2006
Susan Ungaro is named the new JBF president.

October 2007
The first James Beard Foundation’s Taste America® festival takes place in 20 cities throughout the country.

August 20, 2009
JBF Award winner and renowned pork lover David Chang, chef of the Momofuku restaurants in NYC, cooks an all-vegetable dinner at the Beard House.

October 2010
The first JBF Food Conference is held at the Pew Center in Washington, D.C.

October 12, 2011
The inaugural JBF Leadership Awards are held at Hearst Tower. Honorees include First Lady Michelle Obama, Will Allen, and Janet Poppendieck.

February 24, 2012
JBF releases its first cookbook, The James Beard Foundation’s Best of the Best, featuring recipes from the winners of the Foundation’s Outstanding Chef award.

July 8–10, 2012
More than a dozen chefs travel to Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, for JBF’s first Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change. Sean Brock and Michael Anthony are among the participants.

September 18, 2012
The Foundation launches the Women in Culinary Leadership program, which mentors and trains women who aspire to careers in the culinary industry.

March 31, 2014
JBF unveils the JBF Kitchen Cam, a live camera feed that captures the action in the Beard House kitchen. The inaugural broadcast features Daniel Boulud.

May 1, 2015
Expo Milan, the modern World’s Fair, opens its six-month run. The Foundation is instrumental in the creation of the American Pavilion, which features a rotating lineup of JBF Award–winning chef dinners at the James Beard American Restaurant.

May 4, 2015
The James Beard Awards Gala takes place in the city of Chicago. It is the first time the ceremony is held outside New York City.

February 8, 2016
James Beard’s All-American Eats, featuring tales and recipes from winners of the Foundation’s popular America’s Classics award, is published.

April 25, 2016
The Foundation announces the JBF Impact Programs, a commitment to establish a more sustainable food system through education, advocacy, and thought leadership.

August 18, 2016
The inaugural class of JBF National Scholars is announced. The program awards $20,000 scholarships to ten candidates across the country studying culinary arts, food studies, agriculture, hospitality management, and related fields.

October 14, 2016
JBF extends its partnership with Chicago’s culinary scene by announcing that the Windy City will host the James Beard Awards through 2021.

January 27, 2017
A woman chef–led benefit reception in Tiburon, CA, kicks off JBF’s new leadership initiative, the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program, which targets gender imbalance in the culinary industry.

March 27, 2017
The Foundation’s under-40 membership program, JBF Greens, expands to Chicago, offering curated food, drink, and cultural events to the city’s young gourmands.

June 5, 2017
The Foundation announces the launch of the Smart Catch sustainable seafood national pilot, which provides guidance and tools to chefs to help them make better seafood sourcing choices.

September 10, 2017
21 women entrepreneurs from around the country gather at Babson College to attend the first-ever JBF Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program retreat. The inaugural class includes Kathleen Blake and Amy Brandwein.

November 10, 2017
The Foundation honors JBF president Susan Ungaro at its annual gala for her 11 years of outstanding leadership.

Dive into the best stories and moments from JBF history through our 30 Years in 30 Days video series.