Stories / Beard House

This James Beard Fellow is Ready to Hone His Skills

Get to know our latest Fellow, Theodore Coleman

Morgan Carter

July 08, 2021


Photo of Theodore Coleman standing against a graffitied wall
Photo: Deanna Coleman

For decades, cooking at the James Beard House has been an aspiration for many chefs and is considered a career milestone. In May, 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 and running through November 2021, launched in partnership with the Food Education Fund (FEF). Our initial class of seven 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., with special perks for Capital One cardholders. Sign up for the waitlist to get your Beard Box.

Our newest Fellow is Theodore Coleman. After graduating from Food and Finance High School in 2010, Theodore attended college to study film with the hopes of producing food documentaries. As a way to support his son, he began working at Shake Shack as a grill trainer and oversaw the opening of three locations. Looking to explore the various restaurants under the Union Square Hospitality Group umbrella, Theodore found a job at North End Grill under chef Floyd Cardoz as a restaurant receiver. Theodore climbed the ranks to lead line cook while also gaining experience in sourcing fresh ingredients and tending to the restaurant's rooftop garden. He has since gone on to work at Marta, Marlow & Sons, Bombay Bread Bar, and most recently, was head chef at Good Thanks Cafe before being laid off due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

We asked each Fellow a few questions about their culinary dreams and signature dishes. Read on to learn more about Theodore’s favorite ingredients and cooking aspirations. 

James Beard Foundation: Do you have a signature dish?
Theodore Coleman: Right now I’m more focused on learning as much as I can skills-wise; I’ve got time to develop my signature style. But my jackfruit curry and sakura cheesecake are pretty popular right now. I [also] make a pretty good shio koji chili chicken sandwich. 

JBF: What is your earliest food memory?

TC: Watching Emeril Live with my mom. I would take my older sister’s Easy Bake Oven and perform for my action figures. 

JBF: What is an item you think everyone should have in their pantry?
TC: I'm a collector of different salt varieties. But if we’re talking favorite ingredient, it’s definitely black garlic. I use it in chocolate and in my savory dishes whenever I can.

JBF: What is one culinary destination you hope to go to one day?
TC: I'd love to visit Japan. I had the pleasure of cooking for Nancy Singleton Hachisu at Marlow & Sons one summer with chef Ken Wiss. That’s where I learned a lot of traditional techniques [that] I implement in my cooking to this day. [Plus], the legend of Yasuke the Black samurai is the inspiration for my next pop-up series. 

JBF: What is your favorite or least favorite current food trend?

TC: I’ve got my eye on cannabis-infused fine dining. I'd like to get a shot at changing the stigma [of] cannabis and Black men by adding a level of refinement and visibility. I don’t see enough men that look like me getting a seat at the table. It’s more about purpose than profit to me. 

Sign up for the waitlist to get Theodore’s Beard Box, on sale July 19 

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.