What are the James Beard Foundation Awards?
The James Beard Foundation Awards, aka the Beard Awards, are the food industry’s highest honor. Awards are given in many categories, including chefs and restaurants, books, journalism, broadcast media, and restaurant design and graphics, as well as for lifetime and humanitarian achievements. Time magazine called them “the Oscars of the food world.”
Who are the judges?
The judges for the awards are selected by the governing committee for each awards category. For example, the Book Awards Committee selects the judges for the book awards. The judges choose the winners by reviewing the entries and voting with secret ballots. The judges are all experts in their fields who may not enter their awards category during the year they are judging. (Judges may, however, enter awards categories they are not judging.) The judging process is overseen by an independent accounting firm.
Fortunately, the reputation of the Beard Awards means that we get thousands of entries from across the country. Anyone can enter. Each awards category, such as journalism or books, is administered in a slightly different way consistent with other awards in the field. This means that the entry process, requirements, and deadlines vary from one category to the next. But the process for each category begins on our website, where entry details and forms are posted in mid October for the following year’s awards.
How are the Awards financed?
The Awards are a program of the James Beard Foundation, which means the trustees of the Foundation have overall fiduciary responsibility for them. Sponsorship, entry fees, and ticket and advertising sales are intended to cover the cost of the Awards program, which includes fees for the independent auditors, administrative costs for the judging, the costs for the production of the ceremony, and the costs associated with the reception.
Can you win a James Beard Foundation Award if you haven’t participated in a James Beard Foundation event?
Absolutely. Every step is taken to assure that the Awards are open to all eligible candidates and administered fairly. James Beard Foundation staff members are not allowed to vote on the Awards, nor are trustees. And although we are extremely grateful to everyone who participates in our events, those events are in no way related to the awards process. Also, you do not need to be a James Beard Foundation member to receive a nomination or win an award. In fact, some of our highest honors have been received by chefs who have never joined the Foundation or participated in a Foundation event.
Is there anything an entrant can do to increase his or her chances of winning?
Besides performing to the best of his or her abilities, there’s nothing anyone can do to affect the outcome of an award. We hear stories of people campaigning for various awards but our procedures are overseen by an independent accounting firm and are not susceptible to outside influence.
Are James Beard Foundation trustees eligible for an award?
No. James Beard Foundation Trustees are not eligible to win a James Beard Foundation Award. (Nor can they influence the voting in any way.) Trustees must sign a statement of conflict of interest that states that they or their relatives will not be eligible for an award.
What about staff?
No way. As with the trustees, all management and staff sign a conflict of interest statement that states that they or their relatives will not be eligible for an award.
Can sponsors affect the outcome?
Absolutely not. Sponsors do not take part in judging or determine any Awards policies.
What do James Beard Foundation Award winners receive?
Bragging rights, a handsome medal, an impressive certificate, a lot of publicity, and the satisfaction of having been recognized by your peers. There are no cash awards.
Policies and Procedures
A James Beard Foundation Award has become the most coveted honor in the world of food and beverage because of the sound policies and procedures with which they are administered.
Governance, Structure, and Operations
The Awards Committee of the James Beard Foundation determines policies and procedures for the James Beard Foundation Awards. The volunteer committee consists of the chairperson of each individual Awards program, members of the Foundation's Board of Trustees, and members at large.
The James Beard Foundation Awards consist of six separate recognition programs and two special achievement awards: Books, Broadcast Media, Journalism, Restaurant Design, Restaurants and Chefs, Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, Lifetime Achievement, and Humanitarian of the Year. Each program is administered by an independent volunteer committee whose members serve staggered terms of one to three years. Each committee chairperson reports to the Awards Committee. A committee member is ineligible to enter the awards competition of the program of which he or she is sitting on a committee during his or her year of service. (Though he or she may enter the competition of another awards program.)
Ballot tabulation for the James Beard Foundation Awards is handled by independent accounting firm Lutz and Carr. All results are final and are kept confidential until the Awards presentation ceremony.
The James Beard Foundation Awards are financed by the James Beard Foundation with partial underwriting ("sponsorship") provided by corporations, food product associations, and other contributors. Event and award sponsors neither vote nor influence the policies and procedures of the James Beard Foundation Awards. The James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards receive no outside corporate support and are financed solely by the James Beard Foundation to alleviate any intimation of bias or compromise of topics covered by the journalists.
The James Beard Foundation Awards open call-to-entry begins in mid-October. Semifinalists for the Restaurant and Chef Awards are announced in February. All Awards nominees are announced in March. Winners are announced at the Awards Gala and at the Book, Journalism, and Broadcast Media Awards Dinner in April and May. Each award winner receives a certificate and a bronze medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. Winners receive a complimentary membership for one year to the James Beard Foundation. There are no cash awards.
The Awards were established in 1990 and the first ceremony was in 1991.
2017 Awards Committee
Anne Quatrano (Committee Chair)
Ricardo J. Salvador
Types of Awards
Restaurant and Chef Awards
The Restaurant and Chef awards were established in 1990 by the James Beard Foundation.
2017 Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee
Bill Addison, Restaurant Editor and National Critic, Eater
Tina Antolini, Host & Producer, Gravy podcast
Providence Cicero, Restaurant Critic, The Seattle Times
Jennifer V. Cole, Food and Spirits Writer
John T. Edge, Director, Southern Foodways Alliance
Adam Erace, Food and Travel Writer
Devra First, Food Editor, Boston Globe
Ian Froeb, Restaurant Critic, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
David Hagedorn, Restaurant Critic, Arlington Magazine and Bethesda Magazine
Cheryl Alters Jamison, Freelance Writer
Kate Krader, Food Editor, Bloomberg
Christiane Lauterbach, Columnist, Atlanta Magazine and Knife & Fork
Jordana Rothman, Food Writer and Author
Patricia Sharpe, Executive Editor and Food Editor, Texas Monthly
Phil Vettel (Chair), Restaurant Critic, Chicago Tribune
Sherry Irene Virbila, Freelance Food and Wine Writer
Chris Ying, Editor at Large, Lucky Peach
Nominee Selection and Judging
Anyone can submit a chef or restaurant for consideration during the online open call for entries in the fall. There is no entry fee.
The Foundation received more than 20,000 entries for the 2016 Restaurant and Chef Awards.
The Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee produces a ballot with approximately 20 semifinalists in each category. This ballot is distributed online to a voting body of over 300 previous James Beard Restaurant & Chef Award winners; 250 panelists divided evenly among 10 regions (see below); and 17 members of the Restaurant and Chef Award subcommittee. All votes count equally and are tabulated by the independent accounting firm Lutz & Carr. The 5 semifinalists with the highest number of votes become the nominees.
The 20 semifinalists in each category are announced in mid-February. A ballot goes out electronically to the judges, and the 5 nominees in each category are announced in March. A second ballot is then distributed to the same voting body. Winners are announced at the Awards ceremony in May.
Criteria for Restaurant and Chef Awards
A working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship. Candidates must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years. Candidates must not have been nominated for a James Beard Foundation chef award in the past five years.
Outstanding Chef (Presented by All-Clad Metalcrafters)
A working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Eligible candidates must have been working as a chef for the past five years.
Outstanding Restaurant (Presented by Acqua Panna® Natural Spring Water)
A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service. Eligible restaurants must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years.
Rising Star Chef of the Year (Presented by S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Spring Water)
A chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.
Best New Restaurant (Presented by True Refrigeration®)
A restaurant opened in the calendar year before the award will be given that already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.
Outstanding Pastry Chef
A chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries or breads in a restaurant, and who serves as a national standard bearer of excellence. Must have been a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.
A chef or baker who prepares breads, pastries or desserts in a retail bakery, and who serves as a national standard-bearer of excellence. Must have been a baker or pastry chef for at least five years.
Outstanding Service (Presented by Goose Island Beer Company)
A restaurant in operation five or more years that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service.
Outstanding Wines, Beer, or Spirits Professional
A beer, wine or spirits professional who has made a significant national impact on the restaurant industry.
Outstanding Wine Program
A restaurant in operation five or more years that serves as a standard bearer for excellence in wine service through a well-presented wine list, knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about wine.
Outstanding Bar Program
A restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in cocktail, spirits and/or beer service.
Best Chefs (10 Regions)
Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Eligible candidates may be from any kind of dining establishment and must have been working as a chef for at least five years with the three most recent years spent in the region.
Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
New York City (Five Boroughs)
Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY State, RI, VT)
Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
West (CA, HI, NV)
South (AL, AR, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, FL, LA, MS)
Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT)
Who or what is eligible to win?
Eligibility depends on the Awards category. For instance, to be nominated for a Rising Star Chef of the Year award, the chef must be age 30 or younger. Once a chef or restaurant has won a particular Restaurant and Chef award, that chef or restaurant is ineligible to be on the ballot again for five years, but is still eligible to be nominated or win an award in another category.
How are the nominees selected?
Anyone can submit a chef or restaurant for consideration during the online open call for entries in the fall. There is no entry fee. The Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee discusses and analyzes the open-call-for-entry results in order to compile the nominating ballot. The committee also reviews input from regional panelists. The committee will slate 20 individuals or restaurants (“semifinalists”) in each award category which, in the committee’s good faith and judgment, are both in adherence and compliance with the rules defining categories and delineating eligibility requirements outlined herein and in the Conflicts Policy and appropriate candidates for an award. The committee reserves the right to separate teams on nominating ballot. This list is announced in mid-February. The ballot is distributed electronically to a voting body of more than 300 previous James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award winners; 250 panelists divided evenly among ten regions; and 17 members of the Restaurant and Chef Awards subcommittee. All votes count equally and are tabulated by the independent accounting firm Lutz and Carr. The five semifinalists with the greatest number of votes become the nominees.
Who chooses the winners?
The five nominees in each category are announced in March. A second ballot is then distributed to the same voting body that selected the semifinalists. As described above, the judges include previous Restaurant and Chef Award winners, the Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee, leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, and culinary educators. Winners are announced at the Awards ceremony in May.
A restaurant with timeless appeal, beloved in its region for quality food that reflects the character of its community. The establishment must have been in existence at least 10 years and be locally owned; preferably it is also informal and moderately priced.
Each year, five winners are chosen by the Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee.
Restaurant Design Awards
The Restaurant Design Awards were established by the James Beard Foundation in 1994.
2017 Restaurant Design Awards Committee
James Biber (Chair)
Nominee Selection and Judging
Any restaurant or design project that was completed or redone in North America within three years prior to the year the award is being given is eligible. Architects, interior designers, and graphic designers submit their projects for consideration. There is a $100 entry fee for JBF members, $150 for non-members.
The Foundation received more than 170 entries for the 2016 Restaurant Design Awards.
The Restaurant Design Awards Committee is made up of architects, interior designers, and graphic designers. The committee both chooses the jurors who will judge the winners and oversees the process. They are looking for beautiful functional design that seamlessly melds the setting and theme of the restaurant environment.
The nominees are announced at a Nominees Breakfast in March. The winners are announced during the Awards Ceremony in May. The architect(s) or designer(s) receive(s) the award.
Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America
The Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America was started in 1984 by Cook’s Magazine and Restaurant Business. The James Beard Foundation took them into the fold in 1990.
2017 Who’s Who Committee
Robert Del Grande
Zanne Stewart (Chair)
Nominee Selection and Judging
Any food or beverage industry professional who has made a significant contribution to the industry is eligible for induction. The current members of the Who’s Who are invited to submit names for consideration. Over 80 names were submitted for consideration for 2017.
From the submissions, the Who’s Who Committee creates a nominating ballot and the entire Who’s Who group votes on the inductees for each year. They are looking for unique and long-lasting contribution to the field for at least a decade, with a national impact. The inductees are announced the Awards ceremony in May.
Who chooses the winners?
The Who’s Who Committee discusses and analyzes the call-for-entry results on order to compile a final ballot. At its discretion, the committee will slate 20 individuals in 5 categories, who must represent a cross-section of food and wine related activities and who, in the committee’s good faith judgment, are in adherence and compliance with the rules delineating criteria and eligibility requirements and are appropriate candidates for an award.
Lifetime Achievement and Humanitarian of the Year Awards
The Awards Committee selects the Lifetime Achievement and Humanitarian award recipients. They are announced at the Nominees Breakfast in March.
The Book Awards that are administered by the James Beard Foundation were started in 1966 by French’s Mustard as the R. T. French Tastemaker Awards. They were administered briefly and in turn by Duncan Hines, Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, and the International Association of Culinary Professionals. The James Beard Foundation took them into the fold in 1990.
2017 Book Awards Committee
Scott Alves Barton
Carol Mighton Haddix
Andrea Weigl (Chair)
Nominee Selection and Judging
Any book published in English in the United States or Canada during the previous calendar year is eligible for an award. Publishers, editors, and authors submit their books for consideration in one of 12 categories:
1. American Cooking
2. Baking and Desserts
4. Cooking from a Professional Point of View
5. General Cooking
9. Reference and Scholarship
10. Single Subject
11. Vegetable Cooking
Entrants may select to also enter their book in the Photography category. In order to have your book in the photography category, you must enter your book into one of the listed categories, and also enter your book in the photography category.
There is a $100 entry fee for JBF members, $150 for non-members.
The Foundation received more than 380 entries for the 2017 Book Awards.
Four judges are assigned to each category. The judges (48 in total) are not committee members; rather, they’re editors, authors, journalists, and culinary educators who have not published a culinary book during the current Awards year.
Judges are looking for books that contribute to the growing canon of information and knowledge about food and beverage. Content, accuracy, design, and writing style are among the elements considered.
The Book Awards Committee selects the Cookbook of the Year from among the nominated books in each category. Each year the committee also inducts a classic cookbook or an author’s body of work into the Cookbook Hall of Fame.
The nominees are announced at a Nominees Breakfast in March. The winners are announced during the Book, Journalism, and Broadcast Media Awards Dinner in April. The author(s) or photographer of the book receive(s) the award.
Broadcast Media Awards
The Broadcast and New Media Awards were established in 1993 by the James Beard Foundation.
2017 Broadcast and New Media Awards Committee
Emerald Yeh (Chair)
Nominee Selection and Judging
Any English-language TV, radio, or webcast show or segment on food, cooking, or gastronomy, copyrighted and broadcast in the United States or Canada during the previous calendar year is eligible. Producers, writers, hosts, and other people involved in the production submit their work for consideration. There is a $100 entry fee for JBF members, $150 for non-members.
The Foundation received more than 230 entries for the 2017 Broadcast and New Media Awards.
The Broadcast and New Media Awards Committee divides the entries among 11 categories, with 5 to 6 judges are assigned to each category. The judges (more than 50 in total) are chosen by the committee. They include producers, educators, editors, and print journalists. Judges may not enter the category they are judging during current year. They are looking for creativity, accuracy, high production values, and a fresh perspective on food- and beverage-related topics.
The nominees are announced at a Nominees Breakfast in March. The winners are announced during the Book, Journalism, and Broadcast Media Awards Dinner in April. The host(s) or producer(s) receive(s) the award.
The Journalism Awards were established by the James Beard Foundation in 1992.
2017 Journalism Awards Committee
John Kessler (Chair)
Nominee Selection and Judging
Any article that was published in English in the United States or Canada during the previous calendar year is eligible. Writers, journalists, and editors submit their articles for consideration. There is a $100 entry fee for JBF members, $150 for non-members.
The Foundation received more than 700 entries for the 2017 Journalism Awards.
The judges, who are selected by the Journalism Awards Committee, comprise working editors, journalists (not covering food and beverage topics), retired food and beverage editors and writers, and deans and professors of leading journalism colleges. The judges (more than 100 in total) may not enter in the category that they are judging during the current Awards year.
The judges are looking for accurate, insightful reporting, exceptional writing, unusual perspectives, and other attributes of fine journalism as they pertain to food and beverage topics.
The three nominees in each category are announced at a Nominees Breakfast in March. The winners are announced during the Media Awards Dinner in April. The journalist(s) receive(s) the award.