2009 Clay Triplette Scholarship Recipient William Read

2009 Clay Triplette scholarship recipient William Read is enrolled in the Patisserie and Baking program at Texas Culinary Academy in Austin. He wrote this essay about James Beard’s impact on American cuisine for his scholarship application.

“Just remember—it’s always a good idea to follow the directions exactly the first time you try a recipe. But from then on, you’re on your own.” -James Beard, The Best of Beard

I wonder whether James Beard knew he was fathering an improvisational food revolution in the United States when he uttered those words. In a time before Top Chef challenges and Food Network celebrities, Beard was on television encouraging home cooks of the post-war era to reach outside the confines of European culinary traditions and invent new gastronomic creations that truly captured the American creative spirit.

As a student of patisserie and baking, I find myself immersed in European culinary tradition. Yet within this rich tradition, my chef–instructors push us to be creative with our work, to find flavors that tease the American palette and capture the imagination. Beard’s message has inspired generations of Americans to experience food in a uniquely American way.

In his many books and writings, Beard encouraged cooks to use local ingredients. As America moves away from the era of the TV dinner and back toward the farmers’ market, I am heartened by Beard’s constant support of the link between farm and table. His commitment to creating improvisational dishes based on local ingredients is an early yet shining example of the influence that food choices have over life, health, and environment.

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