It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our dear friend and longtime JBF house steward Clay Triplette, who died yesterday, September 9, after a brief illness.
For chefs who have cooked at the Beard House, chances are Clay was the first person they met when they walked in the door. Clay was James Beard’s right hand for 30 years, beginning in the 1950s, and while the Beard Foundation has carried on James Beard’s legacy, Clay carried on his spirit.
“Life with him was a bowl of gravy,” Clay used to say of Mr. Beard, laughing heartily as he recalled stories about their years together cooking in the legendary West 12th Street kitchen, shopping at long-since-closed Lower East Side and West Village food markets, and creating unforgettable meals.
Originally from Buffalo, New York, Clay, who learned to cook from his mother, had turned 86 this summer. Up until he became ill a few weeks ago, he still arrived at the Beard House early in the morning to sign for deliveries for the visiting chefs. He was well known for greeting everyone with a smile and, if you took the time to stick around, a good story.
When asked the secret to his long life and good cheer, Clay once told JBF president Susan Ungaro, “I did everything. I had everything. I had a happy life and I wish everyone the same. And every morning, I drink my tea and water and say my prayers.”
We will be honoring our dear friend's legacy with the continuation of the Clay Triplette Scholarship, knowing he loved the idea of encouraging students to follow in Mr. Beard's footsteps. People often say the kitchen is the heart of a home. For all of us at the James Beard Foundation, our beloved Mr. Clay was the heart of the Beard House.