James Andrews Beard (May 5, 1903 – January 23, 1985) was an American cook, cookbook author, teacher and television personality. Beard was a champion of American cuisine who taught and mentored generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. His legacy lives on in twenty books, other writings and his foundation's annual James Beard awards in a number of culinary genres.
James Beard signing books at a street fair in Midtown Manhattan in 1981
|Born||May 5, 1903|
|Died||January 21, 1985 (aged 81)|
|Cooking style||American, French, Chinese|
James Andrews Beard was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1903 to Elizabeth and John Beard. His mother operated the Gladstone Hotel, and his father worked at the city's customs house. The family vacationed on the Pacific coast in Gearhart, Oregon, where Beard was exposed to Pacific Northwest cuisine.
Common ingredients of this cuisine are salmon, shellfish, and other fresh seafood; game meats such as moose, elk, or venison; mushrooms, berries, small fruits, potatoes, kale, and wild plants such as fiddleheads or young pushki (Heracleum maximum, or cow parsnip).
I was taken to the exposition two or three times. The thing that remained in my mind above all others—I think it marked my life—was watching Triscuits and shredded wheat biscuits being made. Isn't that crazy? At two years old that memory was made. It intrigued the hell out of me.
At age three Beard was bedridden with malaria, and the illness gave him time to focus on the food prepared by his mother and their Chinese helper. According to Beard he was raised by Thema and Jue-Let, who instilled in him a passion for Chinese culture. Beard reportedly "attributes much of his upbringing to Jue-Let," whom he refers to as his Chinese godfather.
David Kamp wrote, "In 1940 he realized that part of his mission [as a food connoisseur] was to defend the pleasure of real cooking and fresh ingredients against the assault of the Jell-O-mold people and the domestic scientists." Beard lived in France during the 1920s, where he experienced French cuisine at its bistros. After this exposure and the widespread influence of French food culture, he became a Francophile.
Beard briefly attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Although he was expelled for homosexuality in 1922, the college granted Beard an honorary degree in 1976. In 1923 he joined a theatrical troupe and studied voice and theater abroad until 1927, when he returned to the United States.
After training as a singer and actor, Beard moved to New York City in 1937. Unlucky in the theater, he and friend Bill Rhodes capitalized on the cocktail party craze by opening Hors d'Oeuvre, Inc., a catering company. This led to lecturing, teaching, writing, and the publication of Beard's first cookbook in 1940: Hors D'Oeuvre and Canapes, a compilation of his catering recipes. According to fellow cooking enthusiast Julia Child, this book put him on the culinary map.World War Two rationing ended Beard's catering business. From August 1946 to May 1947, he hosted I Love to Eat, a live television cooking show on NBC, beginning his ascent as an American food authority. According to Child, "Through the years he gradually became not only the leading culinary figure in the country, but 'The Dean of American Cuisine'."
In 1952, when Helen Evans Brown published her Helen Brown's West Coast Cook Book, Beard wrote her a letter igniting a friendship that spanned until Brown's death. The two, along with her husband Phillip, developed a friendship which was both professional and personal. Beard and Brown became like siblings, admonishing and encouraging each other, as well as collaborating. According to the James Beard Foundation website, "In 1955, he established The James Beard Cooking School. He continued to teach cooking to men and women for the next thirty years, both at his own schools (in New York City and Seaside, Oregon), and around the country at women's clubs, other cooking schools, and civic groups. He was a tireless traveler, bringing his message of good food, honestly prepared with fresh, wholesome, American ingredients, to a country just becoming aware of its own culinary heritage." Beard brought French cooking to the American middle and upper classes during the 1950s, appearing on TV as a cooking personality. David Kamp (who discusses Beard at length in his book, The United States of Arugula) noted that Beard's was the first cooking show on TV. He compares Dione Lucas' cooking show and school with Beard's, noting that their prominence during the 1950s marked the emergence of a sophisticated, New York-based, nationally and internationally known food culture. Kamp wrote, "It was in this decade [the 1950s] that Beard made his name as James Beard, the brand name, the face and belly of American gastronomy." He noted that Beard met Alice B. Toklas on a trip to Paris, indicative of the network of fellow food celebrities who would follow him during his life and carry on his legacy after his death.
Beard made endorsement deals to promote products that he might not have otherwise used or suggested in his own cuisine, including Omaha Steaks, French's Mustard, Green Giant Corn Niblets, Old Crow bourbon, Planters Peanuts, Shasta soft drinks, DuPont chemicals, and Adolph's Meat Tenderizer. According to Kamp, Beard later felt himself a "gastronomic whore" for doing so. Although he felt that mass-produced food that was neither fresh, local nor seasonal was a betrayal of his gastronomic beliefs, he needed the money for his cooking schools. According to Thomas McNamee, "Beard, a man of stupendous appetites—for food, sex, money, you name it—stunned his subtler colleagues." In 1981 Beard and friend Gael Greene founded Citymeals-on-Wheels, which continues to help feed the homebound elderly in New York City.
Julia Child summed up Beard's personal life:
Beard was the quintessential American cook. Well-educated and well-traveled during his eighty-two years, he was familiar with many cuisines but he remained fundamentally American. He was a big man, over six feet tall, with a big belly, and huge hands. An endearing and always lively teacher, he loved people, loved his work, loved gossip, loved to eat, loved a good time.
Beard was gay. According to Beard's memoir, "By the time I was seven, I knew that I was gay. I think it's time to talk about that now." Beard came out in 1981, in Delights and Prejudices, a revised version of his memoir. Of Beard’s “most significant romantic attachments” was his “lifetime companion” of thirty years, Gino Cofacci, who was given an apartment in Beard’s townhouse in the will, and died in 1989, and Beard’s former cooking school assistant Carl Jerome. John Birdsall, a food writer who won two James Beard Awards, ties Beard’s sexuality to his food aesthetics, and said in 2016 it’s only recently that people are accepting the connection.
In a time when serious cooking meant French Cooking, Beard was quintessentially American, a Westerner whose mother ran a boardinghouse, a man who grew up with hotcakes and salmon and meatloaf in his blood. A man who was born a hundred years ago on the other side of the country, in a city, Portland, that at the time was every bit as cosmopolitan as, say, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.
James Beard died of heart failure on January 21, 1985 at his home in New York City at age 81. He was cremated and his ashes scattered over the beach in Gearhart, Oregon, where he spent summers as a child.
In 1995, Love and Kisses and a Halo of Truffles: Letters from Helen Evans Brown was published. It contained excerpts from Beard's bi-weekly correspondence from 1952 to 1964 with friend and fellow chef Helen Evans Brown. The book gave insight to their relationship as well as the way that they developed ideas for recipes, projects and food.
After Beard's death in 1985, Julia Child wanted to preserve his home in New York City as the gathering place it was during his life. 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 efforts to purchase the house and create the James Beard Foundation. Beard's renovated brownstone at 167 West twelfth Street in Greenwich Village, is North America's only historic culinary center. It is preserved as a gathering place where the press and general public could appreciate the talents of emerging and established chefs.
In 1986, the James Beard Foundation was established in Beard's honor to provide scholarships to aspiring food professionals and champion the American culinary tradition which Beard helped create. "Since its inception in 1991, the James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program has awarded over 4.6 million dollars in financial aid to a variety of students—from recent high school graduates, to working culinary professionals, to career changers. Recipients come from many countries, and enhance their knowledge at schools around the world."
The annual James Beard Foundation Awards celebrate fine cuisine around Beard's birthday. Held on the first Monday in May, the awards ceremony honors American chefs, restaurants, journalists, cookbook authors, restaurant designers and electronic-media professionals. It culminates in a reception featuring tastings of signature dishes of more than 30 of the foundation's chefs. A quarterly magazine, Beard House, is a compendium of culinary journalism. The foundation also publishes the James Beard Foundation Restaurant Directory, a directory of all chefs who have presented a meal at the Beard House or participated in one of the foundation's outside fundraising events.
The foundation was affected by scandals; in 2004 its head, Leonard Pickell, resigned and was imprisoned for grand larceny and in 2005 the board of trustees resigned. During this period, chef and writer Anthony Bourdain called the foundation "a kind of benevolent shakedown operation." A new board of trustees has instituted an ethics policy and chosen a president, Susan Ungaro, to prevent future problems.
- Hors d'Oeuvre and Canapes (1940) M. Barrows & Co., revised in 1963 and 1985
- Cook It Outdoors (1941) M. Barrows & Co.
- Fowl and Game Cookery (1944) M. Barrows & Co.
- The Fireside Cook Book: A Complete Guide to Fine Cooking for Beginner and Expert (1949) Simon & Schuster, reissued in 1982 as The Fireside Cookbook
- Paris Cuisine (1952) Little, Brown and Company Beard co-wrote Paris Cuisine with British journalist Alexander Watt.
- The Complete Book of Barbecue & Rotisserie Cooking (1954) Maco Magazine Corp., reissued in 1958 as New Barbecue Cookbook and again in 1966 as Jim Beard's Barbecue Cookbook
- Complete Cookbook for Entertaining (1954) Maco Magazine Corp.
- How to Eat Better for Less Money (1954) Simon & Schuster
- James Beard's Fish Cookery (1954) Little, Brown, reissued in 1976 and 1987 in paperback as James Beard's New Fish Cookery
- Casserole Cookbook (1955) Maco Magazine Corp.
- The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery (1955) Doubleday
- The James Beard Cookbook (1959) Dell Publishing, revised in 1961, 1970, 1987 (paperback) and 1996
- Treasury of Outdoor Cooking (1960) Golden Press
- Delights & Prejudices: A Memoir with Recipes (1964) Atheneum, revised in 1981 and 1990
- James Beard's Menus for Entertaining (1965) Delacorte Press
- How to Eat (and Drink) Your Way through a French (or Italian) Menu (1971) Atheneum
- James Beard's American Cookery (1972) Little, Brown and Company
- Beard on Bread (1973) Alfred A. Knopf, revised in 1995 (paperback)
- James Beard Cooks with Corning (1973)
- Beard on Food (1974) Knopf
- New Recipes for the Cuisinart Food Processor (1976)
- James Beard's Theory & Practice of Good Cooking (1977) Knopf, revised in 1978, 1986, and 1990
- The New James Beard (1981) Knopf, revised in 1989
- Beard on Pasta (1983) Knopf
- The Grand Grand Marnier Cookbook, with John Chang McCurdy (1982) TBWA Advertising, Inc., New York OCLC 25716217
- Benson & Hedges 100's presents 100 of the world's greatest recipes (1976) Philip Morris Inc., New York OCLC 5867311
- The James Beard Cookbook on CuisineVu (1987) A computer diskette with about 125 recipes from The James Beard Cookbook (unpublished)
- James Beard's Simple Foods (1993) Macmillan ISBN 978-0-02508-070-6
- Love and Kisses and a Halo of Truffles (1994) Arcade, edited by John Ferrone ISBN 978-1-55970-264-5
- The James Beard Cookbooks (1997) Thames and Hudson, edited by John Ferrone
- The Armchair James Beard (1999) The Lyons Press, edited by John Ferrone ISBN 978-1-55821-737-9
- The Essential James Beard Cookbook (2012) St. Martin's Press ISBN 978-0-31264-218-1
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- Clark, Robert (1993). James Beard: A Biography. HarperCollins. pp. 326. ISBN 978-0060167639.
- "James Beard Foundation, About Us". Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Profiles from the kitchen: What great cooks have taught us about ourselves and our food. p. 13. ISBN 9781283232586.
- Beard, A James Beard Memoir, pg. 25
- Kamp, pg. 19
- Beard, A James Beard Memoir, pg. 20
- Dao, Dan Q. "Who was Jue-Let, the Unknown Chinese Chef Who Raised James Beard? Saveur Magazine. 2017.
- Kamp, pg. 20
- Kamp, pg. 42
- Who Was James Beard? James Beard Foundation. Retrieved on July 19, 2010.
- Internet Archive of Reed Magazine, Was James Beard Really a Reedie?, May 10, 2011, Retrieved June 10, 2018
- "Bristling at Beard's Mention?". Reed Magazine. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Beard, James Beard Beard on Food, pg. vi
- Ferrone, John (1995). "Introduction". In Beard, James (ed.). Love and Kisses and a Halo of Truffles: Letters from Helen Evans Brown (1 ed.). New York, New York: Arcade Publishing. pp. vii–xiv. ISBN 978-1-55970-318-5.
- "James Beard Foundation Website". James Beard Foundation. Retrieved on July 19, 2010.
- Kamp, pg. 55
- Kamp, pg. 57
- Kamp, pg. 58
- Kamp, pg. 60
- Kamp, pg. 62
- McNamee, Thomas (2012). The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat. New York, NY: Free Press, Div of Simon & Schuster. pp. 339. ISBN 978-1-4391-9150-7.
- Food, sex and silence
- James Beard, The James Beard Celebration Cookbook, pg. 24
- Shadel, Jon (2017-05-01). "America's Most Influential Chef was Gay as Hell". Vice. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
- "James Beard: Timeline | American Masters | PBS". American Masters. 2017-05-24. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
- "Two New Beard Biographies Ignite Bonfire of the Foodies : Books: The chef who once called himself 'a butter boy' is the topic of tasteless bickering whipped up by followers who wish to inherit his richly caloric mantle". Los Angeles Times. 1990-12-27. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
- Beard, A James Beard Memoir, pg. 20–21.
- Beard, James Beard Beard on Food, pg. viii
- Krebs, Albin (January 24, 1985). "James Beard, Authority On Food, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2010.
James Beard, the bald and portly chef and cookbook writer who was one of the country's leading authorities on food and drink and its foremost champion of American cooking, died of cardiac arrest yesterday at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. He was 81 years old and lived in ...
- Kamp, pg. 294
- James Beard Foundation Scholarships & Grants Information
- As quoted by Mike Weiss, "Recipe for Scandal" San Francisco Chronicle, 05 May 2005; accessed 02 May 2016
- "The Fales Library Guide to the James Beard Papers". Archived from the original on 2009-11-30. Retrieved 2009-04-02.
- Beard, James (1990) A James Beard Memoir: The James Beard Celebration Cookbook. Ed. Barbara Kafka. New York: W. Morrow ISBN 978-0-68807-637-5
- Beard, James; Jose Wilson (2007) Beard on Food: The Best Recipes and Kitchen Wisdom from the Dean of American Cooking. New York: Bloomsbury ISBN 978-1-59691-446-9
- Beard, James (1949) The Fireside Cook Book: A Complete Guide to Fine Cooking for Beginner and Expert. New York: Simon & Schuster OCLC 1430563
- Beard, James (1974) The Best of Beard: Great Recipes From a Great Cook. New York: Warner Books OCLC 249600203
- Clark, Robert (1993) James Beard: A Biography. New York: HarperCollins ISBN 978-0-06016-763-9
- Kamp, David (2006) The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold-pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution. New York: Broadway Books ISBN 978-0-76791-580-9
- Loughery, John (1998) The Other Side of Silence—Men's Lives and Gay Identities: A Twentieth-Century History. New York, Henry Holt and Company ISBN 0-8050-3896-5.
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