— The James Beard Foundation Awards are often referred to as the “Oscars of the food world,” but the honorees are more frequently photographed in chefs’ whites and clogs than tuxes and red carpet couture, and they’re hounded for hot dish from diners rather than the staff of TMZ.
The awards — established in 1990 by the nonprofit that bears the name of one of America’s founding food writers and cooks — honor chefs, food journalists, restaurateurs, cookbook authors, restaurant designers and architects who have achieved excellence in the food and beverage field.
While the journalism, media and cookbook categories call for self-nomination (and an entry fee), anyone can suggest a chef or restaurant via the foundation’s Web site jamesbeard.org during an open call in the fall.
Though there is no cash reward, a win — or even a nomination — can substantially increase the buzz for business, according to foundation president Susan Ungaro.
“There is no doubt that it elevates standing among peers, and the publicity reverberates through the town or city,” Ungaro said last week. “It excites locals, who then think, ‘I must check that out.’ ”
Of particular passion to Ungaro are the America’s Classics awards, given to restaurants, generally 50 to 100 years old, and of iconic status in their communities.
“These would have been James Beard’s favorites — he loved both haute and down-home. These reflect the best of America’s classic dining. They’re often family run, and they’re special,” she said.
Ungaro also expressed a wish that food fans might use nominee lists as a cross-country, culinary travelogue, noting, “A nomination can help keep a restaurant going during tough economic times. These eateries end up being inundated with customers, and that helps the whole community.”
The nominations for the 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards were tweeted live (@BeardFoundation) Monday morning from New Orleans, Louisiana, and the awards will be announced at events on May 2 and 3 in New York.
To see if your favorite restaurant made the list click here