Stories / Awards, Foundation News

Announcing Changes to the 2019 James Beard Awards

New Policies Aim to Increase Access, Representation, and Transparency

JBF Editors

October 02, 2018


James Beard Awards Photo by Eliesa Johnson
Photo by Eliesa Johnson

If every restaurant team had an equal number of men and women, what effect would that have on the work environment? On the service? On the food? What if racial equity were the norm in kitchens and dining rooms across the country? Could you taste it? Given the spotlight we wield and the importance of recognition and media attention for the success of people in the food business, the James Beard Foundation has begun to take a look at the role our organization can play to improve matters programmatically. We have also reviewed the policies and procedures of the James Beard Awards with the objective of making them more inclusive. 

Today we announced a series of changes to the policies and procedures that govern the annual James Beard Awards. These changes will go into effect in advance of the October 15, 2018, call for entry period for the 2019 Awards. They are a first step intended to increase gender, race, and ethnic representation in the governance and outcomes of the Awards, as well as to increase transparency of the judging process, and to make entry to the Awards more accessible than ever before.

The 2018 James Beard Award winners represented one of the most diverse groups of honorees to date, with women and people of color taking home awards in more than half of the Restaurant & Chef categories. In an effort to continue to strive for inclusion, equity, and equality in the Beard Awards themselves and in the food industry at large, we conducted research into the Beard Foundation's general practices and connected with thought leaders who challenged us to analyze our position on current issues and how they affected the Awards process. This past week, a group of chefs, writers, and activists penned a series of op-ed–style pieces addressing their concerns that appeared on our website.

The result of these efforts is a series of initial changes that will be enacted by the Foundation and the volunteer committees that oversee the Awards governance process in several key areas:


  • The volunteers who oversee the various James Beard Award programs have agreed to increase, monitor, and maintain gender, ethnic, and racial diversity among the committees and judges. Each of the JBF awards committees has directed by the Foundation to increase diversity in its ranks to at least represent the U.S. census. A similar directive has been given to the committees to increase the diversity of their judges.
  • The JBF Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, a decades-old program originally established in 1984 by Cook’s and Restaurant Business magazines, was examined under the new inclusion directives. Due to the nature of the Award, for which only past honorees are able to nominate new members, the Who’s Who committee has decided to retire it, memorializing the current Who’s Who, but ceasing to induct new members.
  • Changes were announced to the James Beard Foundation’s Leadership Awards, which became part of the larger James Beard Awards weekend this past May. Starting on October 15, 2018, the general public can suggest individuals for consideration for the Leadership Awards, with the goal of broadening the pool of Leadership Award candidates working in sustainability, food justice, and public health.


  • The James Beard Foundation, together with its supporting sponsor S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, who is committed to shining a spotlight on diverse voices in the industry, will make the first two weeks of entry, October 15, 2018 to October 29, 2018, free for the Book, Broadcast Media, and Design Awards in order to remove any financial barrier to entry. For work published or released after the window closes, (i.e. between October 29, 2018 and December 30, 2018), the Foundation will allow individuals to write in for exception, which the committees will review on a case-by-case basis. To ensure the Journalism awards attract new voices, the entry fee for first-time submissions will be waived for the entire entry period (October 15, 2018, through January 2, 2019). Individual writers who have never submitted a work and who have never had their work submitted on their behalf by a media company to which they contribute are eligible for free entry.


  •  All parts of the submission, voting and judging process, including the names of committee members, key dates, and guidelines can be found at
  • The Foundation will continue to encourage committees and judges to consider restaurant culture and leadership values when making their determinations, a directive first issued by the committee chairs as the judging process was getting underway for the 2018 Awards. Extra time for fact checking has been built into the Foundation’s schedule to ensure nominees and winners are vetted to the best of our capabilities.


Read more about these changes in the full press release.

Learn more about the James Beard Awards.