A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 09, 2008
Food Oscars (James Beard Foundation Awards)

The James Beard Foundation Awards were started in 1991, six years after noted chef and cookbook author James Beard died in New York City in 1985. The awards are presented each spring at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.

The food awards are frequently compared to film’s Oscars (Academy Awards). The James Beard Foundation website cites Time magazine with calling the awards “the Oscars of the food world,” but the Time magazine digital archive shows just one use of this quotation, long after the Beard awards were established. The use of “Oscars” appears in many 1991 articles about the first James Beard Foundation Awards and the comparison might have been promoted by the Foundation itself.


Wikipedia: James Beard
James Andrew Beard (May 5, 1903 – January 21, 1985) was an American chef and food writer. James Beard is recognized by many 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.
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Beard’s legacy: the James Beard House & the James Beard Awards
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. 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.

Beard’s renovated brownstone is located 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.

The annual James Beard Foundation Awards are given at the industry’s biggest party, part of a fortnight of activities that celebrate fine cuisine and Beard’s birthday. Held on the first Monday in May, the Awards ceremony 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.

Welcome to the James Beard Foundation
JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION AWARDS
Deemed “the Oscars of the food world,” by Time magazine, The James Beard Foundation Awards are the country’s most coveted honor for chefs; food and beverage professionals; broadcast media, journalists, and authors working on food; and restaurant architects and designers.

About the Awards - James Beard Foundation Awards
The James Beard Foundation Awards shine a spotlight on the best and brightest talent in the food and beverage industry.

Covering all aspects of the industry—from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors and food journalists to restaurant designers and architects and more—the James Beard Foundation Awards are the highest honors for food and beverage professionals working in America. The awards are presented each spring at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Nominees and winners are fêted at a weekend of gala events in New York City that has become the social and gastronomic highlight of the year.

The theme of this year’s reception is Artisanal America. Some 35 years after James Beard wrote American Cookery, American culinary artisans and chefs have crafted a bona fide American cuisine. Underlying our culinary coming of age is an ever-growing appreciation for the artisanship of food. Whether it’s the care that goes into growing an heirloom variety of corn, the understanding of technique that helps make a fine cheese, the experienced hands that produce a perfectly shaped loaf of bread, or the attention to detail that separates a good cook from a great chef, it is culinary artisans who are at the forefront of the American culinary revolution.

Established in 1990, the James Beard Foundation Awards are a program of the James Beard Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate, nurture, and preserve America’s culinary heritage and diversity in order to elevate our appreciation of the culinary arts. For more information, to join as a member, to learn more about James Beard, or to sign up to receive Beard Bites, our free electronic newsletter, visit http://www.jamesbeard.org.

18 April 1991, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. H43:
THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE: This year’s nominations for the Oscars of food, the James Beard Foundation Awards (if they’re not yet being called the Jimmy’s, ...

HighBeam Research
Oscar night for food lovers: The James Beard Foundation in New York honors top chefs, eateries, and cookbooks.
From: The Christian Science Monitor
Date: May 9, 2001
Byline: Jennifer Wolcott Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
NEW YORK—Speeches are shorter and gowns less revealing, but the James Beard awards are strikingly similar to their show-business cousin: the Oscars.

The culinary world’s big night always hosts its own share of luminaries. With actor John Ritter as emcee - and such household names as Wolfgang Puck, Jacques Pepin, and Martin Yan in attendance - last week’s black-tie gala was no exception.

For 11 years, the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving America’s culinary heritage, has toasted the country’s brightest gastronomic stars.

16 May 1991, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Food Oscars...The Envelope, Please” by Ruth Reichl, pg. H12:
Like every awards ceremony, this one had its moments of controversy. Madeleine Kamman, who was sitting in the front row, shuddered visibly when Nancy Silverton was awarded the prize for best pastry chef over Albert Kumin, the dean of American pastry. “Albert Kumin changed pastry in this country,” Larry Forgione of New York’s An American Place, said later. “His achievement should have been recognized. And if Chef of the Year was for career achievement,” he went on, “why wasn’t Andre Soltner (the legendary chef/owner of Lutece) nominated?” The answer seems to be that, unlike the conservative Academy Awards, the Beard Awards are centered on the food revolution that has swept America. Age was a factor—with the exception of the Lifetime Achievement Award, awarded to writer MFK Fisher, and the award that went to Robert Mondavi, all the awards went to people under 45. So it should come as no surprise that Chef of the Year went to America’s highest-profile young chef, Wolfgang Puck.
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“I came from Boston because this is the Oscars of the food world,” said Lydia Shire (of Biba in Boston), waving a glass of champagne and gesturing vaguely ...

3 June 1991, St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, “The James Beard Awards: Food World’s Answer to the Oscars” by Ruth Reichl (Los Angeles Times), food section, pg. 1:
NEW YORK—WHEN THE first Emmys were handed out in 1949, a Los Angeles critic complained that the ceremony at the Hollywood Athletic Club looked like a Union City fish fry - ‘’raggedly timed and boringly slow moving.’’ That first year only six Emmys were awarded - and only 600 people attended.

The first James Beard Awards were presented in 1991 - and things were a little different.

New York (NY) Times
CHRONICLE
By MARVINE HOWE
Published: March 23, 1992
Are women taking over that quintessential male domain, haute cuisine?

“Not yet but we hope one day to share power—not seize it,” says ANNE ROSENZWEIG, the culinary director of this year’s James Beard Awards reception and herself a nominee for Best Chef. These awards are the Oscars of the food and beverage industry. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Monday, June 09, 2008 • Permalink