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Throwback Thursday: In the Classroom with James Beard

Maggie Borden

September 04, 2014

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James Beard at CIA

With school back in session, it seems only fitting that we turn to our favorite teacher, James Beard. From television shows to women’s clubs to cooking schools across the country, when he wasn’t writing cookbooks, James Beard was in the kitchen, guiding everyone from the humble home cook to the nation’s top toques. For this week’s #TBT, we look back at the 1998 Summer/Fall issue of Beard House Magazine, where Maria Rabat delves into Beard’s role as an educator in her article Beard at the Head of the Class

Rabat points out that despite an early yearning for “stardom and all that went with it,” Beard's turn to culinary education ultimately brought him far more acclaim that his stage career. Beard was a natural teacher, his culinary curiosity and vast knowledge of cooking history and technique combining with endless enthusiasm and patience. Above all, he strove to “‘make people realize that cooking is primarily fun, and the more they know about what they are doing, the more fun it is.’” That meant getting down and dirty from lesson one, asking students to prepare dishes using their hands rather than distancing themselves with utensils. From the first lesson to the last, James Beard’s classes left an indelible mark on his pupils, touching a generation of chefs that continue to shape our current dining landscape. As Rabat writes, “Jim may never have attained the start status he so desperately sought in his lifetime, but he certainly left his mark on the world, perhaps more than any opera singer or Broadway player ever could.”