The James Beard Foundation has announced the 2020/2021 event will celebrate previously announced honorees and nominees.
This is after the foundation had already released its list of 2020 semi-finalists.
At first, the foundation announced the award finalists and scheduled the announcement of winners to May, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the awards. When the pandemic prevented an in-person event, it was changed to a virtual ceremony in Chicago for May 4th, which was then replaced with an online program to be held in late September. The list of semi-finalists from Oregon included Gado Gado, Eem for Best New Restaurant, Kim Boyce of Bakeshop for Outstanding Baker, Expatriate for Outstanding Bar Program, Gabe Rucker of Le Pigeon/Cannard for Outstanding Chef and Outstanding Wine Program, Pete Cho of Han Oak, Gregory Gourdet of Departure, Kristen Murrary of Måurice, and Katy Millard of Coquine for Best Chef NW.
Foundation to Also Begin Year-Long Initiative to Audit and Overhaul Awards Processes with Intent to Remove Any Systemic Bias.
NEW YORK, NY (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 Awards’ usual positive impact on restaurants and chefs’ businesses will likely not be fully realized due to the current state of the industry, with many restaurants closed permanently or temporarily or operating at minimal capacity. These factors helped to inform the decision not to assign winners during a time of such turmoil.
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. The broadcast will also shine a spotlight on many of the 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.
The decision comes after serious deliberation and consultation with members of the industry, Award committees, JBF staff, and partners. “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 recognizes the leadership role that it plays in the restaurant industry through the James Beard Awards and other programs. Thus, it is conducting a comprehensive internal and external review to address any bias and align the Awards with the Foundation’s mission of promoting sustainability, equity, and diversity in the restaurant industry. By definition, “honoring excellence” is an important act that requires care, judgment and openness. The Foundation is taking stock of how the Awards are administered, communicated, and presented to assure the Awards are open to all and that these judgments are made in a manner that promotes and preserves the Foundation’s mission without bias.
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 restau rants 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. The Foundation will take this time to continue the analysis of Awards-related programs with the goal of a transparent and equitable process in 2022 and beyond.