James Beard

From Academic Kids

James Beard (May 5, 1903January 21, 1985) was an American chef and food writer.

His family operated a small hotel in the Pacific Northwest, and he was exposed to a tremendous variety of foods native to that region as a child. He trained initially as a singer and actor, and moved to New York City in 1937. Not having much luck in the theater, he and a friend tried to capitalize on the cocktail party craze by opening a catering company, "Hors D'Oeuvre" and published his first cookbook Hors D'Oeuvre and Canapes, a compilation of his catering recipes. Rationing difficulties in World War II brought his catering business to its end. In 1946 he appeared on the first cooking show ever televised, "I Love to Eat" on NBC, and thus began his rise as an eminent American food authority.

Over the next forty years James Beard operated a cooking school out of his apartment in New York, wrote dozens of books on cooking and food, and hundreds of articles on food for many different magazines.

By many, James Beard is recognized as the father of American gastronomy. Throughout his life, he pursued and advocated the highest standards, and served as a mentor to emerging talents in the field of the culinary arts.

After Beard's death in 1985, Julia Child had the idea to preserve his home in New York City as the gathering place it was throughout his life. The late Peter Kump, a former student of Beard's and the founder of the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), spearheaded the effort to purchase the house and create the James Beard Foundation.

A quarterly magazine, Beard House, is a comprehensive compendium of the best in culinary journalism. They also publish the James Beard Foundation Restaurant Directory, a directory of all chefs who have either presented a meal at the Beard House or have participated in one of the Foundation's out-of-House fundraising events. In addition, they produce a Directory of Fine Food and Beverage Professionals, billed as "an invaluable resource for anyone in the field."

Beard's renovated brownstone is at 167 West 12th Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village. It is North America's only historical culinary center, a place where Foundation members, the press, and the general public are encouraged to savor the creations of both established and emerging chefs from across the country and around the globe.

Nearly every night of the week, culinary talents such as Jody Adams, Daniel Boulud, Gail Gand, Suzanne Goin, Emeril Lagasse, Nobu Matsuhisa, Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton, Caprial Pence, Jacques Pépin, Douglas Rodriguez, Anne Rosenzweig, Susan Spicer, and Charlie Trotter, work their magic in Beard's kitchen. These dinners not only offer an opportunity to enjoy splendid meals, but a chance to discuss food with great chefs, wine professionals, journalists, cookbook authors, and other members of the James Beard Foundation.

James Beard never married nor had any children. A closeted homosexual for nearly all of his life, Beard would often voice his regret that those he found attractive (younger, slender men) rarely returned the favor. At times, he would discuss his romantic life with long-time friend and confidant, Julia Child, frustrated by his personal situation.

The annual James Beard Foundation Awards are given at the industry's biggest party, and part of a fortnight of activities that celebrate fine cuisine and Beard's birthday. The Awards ceremony, held on the first Monday in May, honors the finest chefs, restaurants, journalists, cookbook authors, restaurant designers, and electronic media professionals in the country. It culminates in a reception featuring a tasting of the signature dishes of more than 30 of the James Beard Foundation's very best chefs.

Some of his better known works are James Beard's American Cookery, Beard on Bread, Beard on Food, James Beard's Fish Cookery, The James Beard Cookbook, and The Armchair James Beard.

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