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Charting a Path to a More Equitable and Sustainable Food Industry

New initiatives, Awards updates, and more

JBF Editors

June 24, 2021


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Today we're announcing changes to existing programs, including an ongoing audit of the Awards, and the launch of new initiatives centered on our organization’s mission to champion a more equitable and sustainable industry.

Over the past year, the independent restaurant industry and the entire food and beverage ecosystem have endured the impacts of COVID-19. The crisis brought on by the pandemic revealed economic vulnerabilities and inequities throughout the United States and within our industry. Through our Open for Good campaign, the James Beard Foundation has been working to help the independent restaurant industry survive the COVID-19 crisis and come back stronger, more equitable, and more resilient. As the restaurant community collectively seeks to create a more equitable and inclusive climate, the Foundation felt it was critical to take a step back and review its programs, procedures, and ethos as an organization and has made a number of adjustments to its internal practices and longstanding programs. 

One of the results of this review is an update to our mission: The James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.

Other updates include:

Human Resources  

The Foundation has made it a priority to evolve its own internal human resources practices. JBF is committed to diversifying leadership its team, providing resources and an open communication channel for its employees, and fostering an inclusive work environment for those striving to support its mission every day. Current projects include revising hiring practices and increasing transparency in compensation, which will be completed by the end of the summer. The Foundation has identified specific goals and is continuing its commitment to these changes by working with diversity, equity, and inclusion experts to achieve them. Read about our DEI commitments here.

The James Beard House

The James Beard House has reopened with a pilot program that trains and supports new culinary talent. For decades, cooking at the James Beard House has been an aspiration for many chefs and considered a milestone in one’s career. The James Beard House Fellows program, presented by Capital One, re-envisions the potential of this historic space as a hub of training and development for the next generation of industry leaders.

Fellows will each receive a $10,000 stipend to enable their participation in the month-long program. They will gain critical skills and engage in various media opportunities to bring visibility to their work. The Foundation provides training in the following areas: publicity, media relations, networking, finance and business, advocacy education, social media, and developing culinary products. Learn more about the program and the first cohort of Fellows.

James Beard Awards

The Foundation recognizes the leadership role that it plays in the restaurant industry through the James Beard Awards and other programs. As was announced in August 2020, the James Beard Awards are undergoing an audit of policies and procedures in order to ensure a more transparent and equitable process for the future. The areas of focus are a code of ethics, composition of committees and judges, criteria for winners, and developing policies and procedures for unforeseen events. The audit will be completed later this summer and a final report will be available on our website.

In 2020 chef and restaurateur Tanya Holland joined the Foundation’s board of trustees and was named the chair of the James Beard Awards committee, the body that oversees governance of the James Beard Awards. Holland is well known for her contributions to the food and hospitality industry, from her books The Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook and New Soul Cooking, to competing on the fifteenth season of Top Chef, to hosting Tanya's Kitchen Table on OWN.

Earlier this year, the Foundation brought on Dawn Padmore to a newly created post, vice president of the James Beard Awards. Padmore joins the Foundation with extensive experience in culinary events—most recently leading production for the Harlem EatUp! festival. In this new role, Padmore will be shepherding the Foundation through the Awards audit and planning the next evolution of the Awards for 2022. 

Holland and Padmore have been working with third-party consultants, the James Beard Awards committee, working groups comprised of Awards subcommittees, and Foundation staff to shape the future of the James Beard Awards.

The first post-audit James Beard Awards will take place in 2022. The 2021 ceremony will be a celebration of the independent restaurant community, honoring those who have made a significant impact on the industry and in their communities during this crisis. Details about this event, which will feature virtual and in-person elements, will be shared in July.

News about the Awards will be regularly updated and posted to

Open for Good

For more than a year, the Foundation has been dedicating its resources to help the independent restaurant industry survive the COVID-19 crisis as part of its Open for Good campaign. The next phase of the campaign will prioritize helping the food and beverage community rebuild stronger and more equitably in the wake of the pandemic. Open for Good has included an emergency relief fund that raised $4.7 million, with funds distributed directly to 312 restaurants across the U.S. in April and May 2020; industry support including webinars, newsletters, and other resources to help the industry navigate the unique challenges of the pandemic; and educational and experiential events that engage consumers in supporting their local independent restaurants.

The Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, created in 2012, was the foundation for the organization’s chef advocacy programs. During COVID-19, many of the program’s alumni and other industry leaders created the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) with support from the James Beard Foundation. The IRC went on to help get the Restaurants Act passed in Congress, and is currently lobbying for a bill to replenish the Restaurant Relief Fund in order to meet the immense need of independent restaurants around the country that, despite recent reopenings, are still struggling to recover from more than 15 months of business disruption due to the pandemic. 

The Foundation continues to run the Chefs Boot Camp (currently remote), and other signature programs including Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership. The organization will revitalize its sustainability programs including Smart Catch and other initiatives in the coming year.

The Open for Good campaign also includes a number of new initiatives aimed at creating a stronger and more equitable future, including:

Original Research

The Foundation is commissioning several pieces of original research with Race Forward, including a project examining the state of racial equity in the food and beverage industry. The findings of this research will be shared in a public report in Fall 2021. This research will help set a benchmark from which the broader food and beverage industry can make progress and will also inform the Foundation’s programs addressing systemic inequities in the industry. [Editor's note: As of 2022, this research is now being conducted independently by the James Beard Foundation, with results being released in Fall 2023.]

The Foundation has commissioned research on women-led businesses with Dr. Deborah Harris of Texas State University, complemented by a benchmark study by Dr. Lilly Janeslie of Cornell University to investigate the impediments to career advancement for women in the industry. 

In addition, the Foundation is embarking on industry research and consultation around the current and future economic model of restaurants, with studies that are exploring different revenue and cost drivers, new practices adopted during the pandemic, and innovations needed for a business model to accommodate the cost of equitable and sustainable practices.

These research projects are due to conclude in Fall 2021 and the results will be available on our website.

Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans

In acknowledgement of the immeasurable contribution that Black and Indigenous communities have made to the modern American foodscape, the Foundation launched the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans, an ongoing fund to provide financial resources for food or beverage businesses that are majority-owned by Black or Indigenous individuals. To date, 37 businesses across the country have received grants of $15,000 each. Learn more about the Investment Fund and our grantees here.

Legacy Network

The James Beard Foundation Legacy Network launched in Spring 2021 to train emerging leaders across the culinary industry and connect them with future generations of excellence. By developing and cultivating the capabilities among these influential professionals, the Legacy Network advances the equitable, culturally relevant leadership required to strengthen the industry. Each mentee, under the guidance of Legacy mentors, becomes part of a powerful network that centers the professional growth of previously under-resourced communities. The Legacy Network ensures their career paths are diverse, equitable, and sustainable. For additional information on the James Beard Foundation’s Legacy Network, and program timeline, and application assets, please visit here.

Stay tuned for additional updates on programs and the Awards over the coming months.

Read the full press release here.