Beard Awards: A Flameless Fiasco in the Making

The 2007 James Beard Awards, as the NYT's food reporter Florence Fabricant noted in the Times, are taking place at Lincoln Center on May 7th. Yup, that Lincoln Center, the one without a kitchen. This, clearly, presents a quandary for an awards ceremony ostensibly honoring the nation's top chefs by inviting them to cook. Chef-turned-reality star Anthony Bourdain, one of this year's non-honorees, really no like.

For an organization that exists (purportedly) to " honor" the craft and profession of cooking, the Beard Foundation continues to send a message of continued cluelessness and disregard. With their most recent strategic masterstroke, they have, yet again, sent the message, " We like famous chefs just fine—especially if we're handing'em the Cuisinart/Vulcan/Fiji Water Humanitarian Award—but who are these nasty cook creatures we keep hearing rumors of?" The $400 dollar a pop awards—where, traditionally, chefs and cooks from all over the country are "invited" (in a Carlo Gambino sense of the word) to contribute food and labor and personnel for a grand tasting clusterfuck near the ceremony, were, until recently, held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. This venue had the appropriate—one would think—virtue of actually having a fucking KITCHEN. Presumably—and I'm just guessing here—COOKS like-when laboring for free to put their restaurant's best foot forward and bring honor to their clans—to have an actual KITCHEN. You know..that place where they actually COOK?

Not this year, friends. This year, it has been decided that in favor of bigger and swankier accommodations for the self congratulatory nearly all-white attendees, that the cooks can take it in their collective poop-chute. At The new venue, Avery Fisher Hall, only hot boxes, induction tops and propane burners are allowed. Reheats only! Out of town chefs with ambitions to actually cook at some point in the prep process are invited to bunk with the locals, jamming their food and staff into New York's already too-small, too crowded kitchens. It's a breathtakingly tone-deaf, dismissive move—one that will only cement the unspoken wisdom that the clueless Beardies are "outsiders"—not "one of us" at all—and completely uninterested and uncomprehending of the real world of cooks and restaurants.


Stroke the Chef/Fuck the Cooks [Ruhlman]