Here’s something for those of you who are fond of banging your head against a wall: The James Beard Foundation is accepting recommendations for its 2022 chef and restaurant awards.
Bang lightly, however, as this will be the first award program following an audit conducted by the foundation to attempt to make the awards more diverse, both in nominees and voting body, and remove any systemic bias.
(If I were giving this information in front of a live audience, this is where I would pause for laughter.)
No, that doesn’t mean that New Orleans has been moved to a special category – it will still be part of the South Region that also includes Florida. Over the years, New Orleans chefs and restaurants have dominated the awards with an overwhelming majority of finalists and ultimate winners.
There is one glimmer of hope. Two new judge categories are being introduced for the restaurant and chef awards: Scouts, who are responsible for bringing new restaurants for consideration; and a Tasting Panel that, according to the foundation’s website, be “responsible for tasting all Nominees and voting for winners using standardized voting form.”
I’m pretty sure they mean tasting the food of the nominees, but you never know.
I applaud the foundation for striving to make changes, but I take all of this with several grains of salt – Himalayan sea salt sprinkled dramatically from a very high place.
I was one of the original judges when the James Beard Awards were established over thirty years ago and remained one until recently. I explained my reasons for breaking with the foundation in this column.
The open call for entry and recommendations will run through November 30. Follow this link to make a recommendation or to get further information about the awards and the audit results.