Why We're Not Announcing the Remaining 2020 Award Winners
The Foundation to also begin year-long initiative to overhaul Awards processes with intent to remove any systemic biasJBF Editors
August 20, 2020
Today the James Beard Foundation announced that its annual Awards program will not present winners in the remaining categories at the upcoming ceremony on Friday, September 25, an unprecedented decision in the Awards’ 30-year history. The choice comes as restaurants continue to suffer the grave negative effects of COVID-19, and as substantial and sustained upheaval in the community has created an environment in which the Foundation believes the assignment of Awards will do little to further the industry in its current uphill battle. The resulting ceremony, which will be broadcast live via Twitter from the host city of Chicago, will instead celebrate previously announced honorees in categories such as America’s Classics, Lifetime Achievement, Humanitarian of the Year, Design Icon, and Leadership Awards.
“We did not come to this decision lightly,” said James Beard Foundation CEO Clare Reichenbach. “The uncertainty of this time for our industry is already a hard reality and considering anyone to have won or lost within the current tumultuous hospitality ecosystem does not in fact feel like the right thing to do. In short, an honor which we know is held in high regard, at the moment, feels minor when compared to the dire situation we are in. As we strive to provide an Awards program with the highest ethical standards, one that is fair, equitable, and reflective of the industry which we serve, we know that the right move is to step back and take stock of the nominees’ and honorees’ achievements. We hope to focus our collective energy on helping our community get through this crisis and on addressing the inequities in the industry going forward. We look forward to bringing the Awards back when the industry is once again ready for them.”
The Foundation has also made the decision to forgo its traditional Awards presentations in 2021. The Awards recognize work done during the previous calendar year, so any intent to hold a ceremony in 2021 based on 2020 work would be unfair and misguided, taking into account the unprecedented hardships which restaurants and potential nominees faced this year. Instead, the 2021 ceremony will be a celebration of the independent restaurant community who have shown leadership during this crisis and honoring those who have made a significant impact on the industry and in their communities. This celebration will be held in Chicago and broadcast nationwide in May 2021.
Both the long-term and immediate changes regarding the James Beard Awards processes are outlined here:
Changes for the 2020 Awards Cycle:
- On September 25, previously announced winners will be honored from the following categories in a virtual ceremony to be broadcast live via Twitter from the host city of Chicago: America’s Classics, Lifetime Achievement, Humanitarian of the Year, Design Icon, and Leadership Awards.
- The broadcast will shine a spotlight on the previously announced nominees and be a night of storytelling surrounding the historic challenges this community faces, and how we can work together to rebuild a stronger and more equitable restaurant industry.
- Winners will not be announced in the following Restaurant and Chef categories:
- Best New Restaurant
- Outstanding Baker
- Outstanding Bar Program
- Outstanding Chef
- Outstanding Hospitality
- Outstanding Pastry Chef
- Outstanding Restaurant
- Outstanding Restaurateur
- Outstanding Wine Program
- Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Producer
- Rising Star Chef of the Year
- Best Chef: California
- Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
- Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
- Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
- Best Chef: Mountain (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY)
- Best Chef: New York State
- Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)
- Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific (AK, HI, OR, WA)
- Best Chef: South (AL, AR, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, FL, LA, MS)
- Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
- Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, NM, NV, OK)
- Best Chef: Texas
Changes for the Future
- The Awards Committee and subcommittees, made up of volunteer members from within the broader food, restaurant, and media industries, will work with the Foundation and an outside social justice agency to overhaul the policies and procedures for the Awards. The objectives are to remove any systemic bias, increase the diversity of the pool of candidates, maintain relevance, and align the Awards more outwardly with the Foundation’s values of equity, equality, sustainability, and excellence for the restaurant industry.
- To thoroughly conduct this audit, allow ample time to issue new recommendations and changes to future Awards, and take into account the catastrophic effects that COVID-19 has had on the restaurant industry in 2020, the Foundation has made the decision to hold on what would be considered the “traditional” Awards in 2021. In their place, the Foundation will host an industry celebration shining a light on the members of the independent restaurant community who have shown leadership during this crisis, and honoring those who have made a significant impact on the industry and in their communities when it was needed most. This celebration will be held in Chicago and broadcast nationwide in May 2021.
- The James Beard Awards will continue in their more traditional, but overhauled state, with the Entry and Recommendation Period in Fall 2021 for Awards taking place in 2022. (Eligibility rules will be expanded to include any relevant work that would have been eligible for a 2021 award.)
- The Foundation is also proud to announce the addition of Foundation trustee Tanya Holland to the James Beard Awards Committee, the governing body of the James Beard Awards. Holland is chef/owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA, author, podcast host, and alum of the Beard Foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change and Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program.