Everything Planners Need to Know About the James Beard Award

There are the AAA Five Diamond Awards for hotels, the Oscars for film, the Emmy’s for television and the James Beard Awards for the culinary industry. If you are looking for something to make your next event’s F&B experience indelible, this list of nominees is where you should look.

The James Beard Foundation recently announced this year’s semifinalists, after an intense panel review process. With eateries and chefs around the country getting the nod in the semifinals, there is likely a Beard-recognized establishment close to you. Only

Whether you are looking for a guest chef to cater a special dinner or you’re planning an incentive prize of an extraordinary tasting menu that might take hours to serve, keep these culinary stars in mind. Attendees will push back from the table with smiles on their face and itching to brag to their friends and colleagues.

History of The James Beard Awards

Named the “foremost champion of American cooking” by The New York Times, James Beard was a leader of the food revolution that has put America in the pantheon of global gastronomy. After James Beard’s death in 1985, a group of his friends and colleagues, led by cooking school founder Peter Kump and chef icon Julia Child, wanted to do something with Beard’s legendary house in Greenwich Village, New York. On November 5, 1986, the James Beard Foundation was created to offer Beard’s house as a center of inspiration for all aspects of cuisine. Today the Foundation hosts more than 250 events at Beard House annually.

The awards were established in 1990 to recognize top culinary professionals around the country, and to further the Foundation’s mission of celebrating, nurturing and honoring chefs and other leaders who make America’s food culture more delicious, diverse and sustainable.

It’s a Process

Beginning each October, The James Beard Foundation holds an open call online for entries. This year, more than 20,000 entries were received. The Restaurant and Chef Committee reviews this list to determine eligibility and regional representation. Ultimately, the list of semifinalists is then sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 600 judges from across the country.

The panel members consist of leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators, and past James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award winners. These individuals vote on specific award categories to determine the final five nominees in each category.

The categories represent a wide range of culinary talent and service skill, from exceptional chefs and dining destinations, to the best new restaurants, outstanding bar programs, bakers, pastry chefs, outstanding wine program, outstanding service and rising chef stars (age 30 or younger). The list of nominees covers all aspects of dining, from all parts of the country, making all kinds of food.

So regardless of where you are located, you can find a James Beard-nominated chef. Regional best-chefs are named for the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New York City, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southeast, Southwest and West.

When the Winners are Announced

On Wednesday, March 14, the Foundation will announce the final nominees for all award categories during a press conference at Parc, hosted by James Beard Award–winning restaurateur Stephen Starr, in Philadelphia. The nominee announcement will begin at 9:30 a.m. EST and will be streamed live online. Nominees will also be announced in real time on The James Beard Foundation’s Twitter feed.

The 2018 James Beard Awards Gala, where the final winners will be announced and honored, will take place on Monday, May 7, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The 2018 Media Awards will be held on Friday, April 27, at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers in New York City. Tune it to see who made the finals and get the jump on booking your event…before all the Instagram foodies beat you to it.