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This Beard House Fellow Wants to Create Community in Wine

Learn more about Darwin Acosta

Morgan Carter

February 03, 2022


Photo of Darwin Acosta standing in a vineyards
Photo: Gabriela Fernandez

For decades, cooking at the James Beard House has been an aspiration for many chefs and is considered a career milestone. In May 2021, we launched the Beard House Fellows program, presented by Capital One, which re-envisions the potential of this historic space into a hub of training and professional development for talented emerging chefs.

The program’s pilot, beginning in May 2021 and running through March 2022, launched in partnership with the Food Education Fund (FEF). Our initial class of Fellows will all be alumni of FEF’s New York-based partner high schools.

Each Fellow will have a one-month residency at the Beard House, and will receive training in financial and legal matters, public relations, policy and advocacy, social media, and more. Fellows will also develop a Beard Box meal kit in collaboration with Great Performances, available for purchasing and shipping across the continental U.S., and will also include a special gift for Capital One cardholders. Sign up for the waitlist to get your Beard Box.

Meet our newest Fellow, Darwin Acosta. Surrounded by a variety of cuisines and cultures in Queens, New York, plus a family that owned several food businesses, Darwin grew up understanding the power of food and community. Darwin's interest eventually drew them to Food and Finance High School, and with the tremendous help of their mentors and the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (CCAP), they earned a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America. There, they studied baking and pastry for their associate degree and double majored in culinary science and applied food studies for their bachelor's. After taking several beverage courses at the CIA, Darwin became interested in learning more about the wine industry. After receiving a scholarship from The Roots Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides educational and financial resources for communities of color who are seeking education or a career in wine, Darwin moved from NYC to Napa, California to begin their wine journey. Passionate about creating diversity and inclusivity in the wine space, Darwin serves as co-president of the Hue Society’s Northern California chapter and also founded Co-Fermented, an organization dedicated to creating awareness and facilitating representation for the LGBTQIA+ community within the industry. 

We asked each Fellow a few questions about their culinary dreams and signature dishes. Read on to learn more about Darwin and their go-to pantry item.

James Beard Foundation: Do you have a signature dish?
Darwin Acosta: I do not have a signature dish only because I enjoy cooking [everything]. I am mostly plant-based at home with my cooking, and I always enjoy finding new ingredients to work with.

JBF: What is your earliest food memory?
DA: The earliest food memory I can think of is learning how to make Dominican arepa from my mom. Dominican arepas are essentially our version of cornbread. It is much denser but also soft and creamy, and can be made sweet or salty and served with coffee.

JBF: What is an item you think everyone should have in their pantry?
DA: Liquid sazon is something my mom used as a base to season everything, [including] arroz con gandules, beans, stewed vegetables, and meat dishes.

JBF: What is one culinary destination you hope to go to one day?
DA: Southern Spain for a fusion of Northern African, Mediterranean, and Spanish cuisine.

JBF: What is your favorite or least favorite current food trend?
DA: My favorite current food trend is the expansion and appreciation of mushrooms and how much more abundant and popular they are becoming.

Sign up for the waitlist to get Darwin’s Beard Box on February 14.

Learn more about the Beard House Fellows program, presented by Capital One.


Morgan Carter is the content manager at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.