James Beard
The James Beard awards are widely considered to be the Oscars of the food industry (Image via NPR)
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James Beard
The James Beard awards are widely considered to be the Oscars of the food industry (Image via NPR)

In the wake of the sexual harassment allegations shaking the country, the highest individual honor for chefs will now take their personal behavior into consideration.

A James Beard behavior requirement has been changed to to make good behavior a requirement for chefs after accusations of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment last year.

Chefs are expected to exhibit appropriate workplace behavior, meaning character is now as important as the culinary masterpieces they create.

From The Winners to The Students- A...
From The Winners to The Students- Advice for Jimmy Awards Nominees!

After so many accusations of sexual harassment and abuse against chefs, the allegations were not something the organization could ignore.

The standards and awards of the organization, which are widely considered prestigious, did not allow room for misbehavior. The James Beard awards, which were established in 1990 and are considered the Oscars of the food industry, are upheld by the high standards of the organization.

A statement on the James Beard website clarifies this: “A James Beard Foundation Award has become the most coveted honor in the world of food and beverage because of the sound policies and procedures with which they are administered.”

Adding a behavior requirement to such a prestigious award could drastically change the atmospheres and attitudes of those competing.

Although details about the reasons chefs are nominated or rejected are not disclosed, organization members will make select decisions about nominees in the years to come.

James Beard
The James Beard awards, named after cook James Beard (above), are considered the Oscars of the food industry (Image via Chicagoist)

In an interview with the New York Times, James Addison, a committee chairman, discussed the level of excellence that the James Beard Organization aims to promote for chefs.

“Obviously, the names in these categories are presented without context,” he said, “but we hope that they reflect the foundation’s desire to present awards that will more accurately represent the nation’s true wealth of culinary talent.”

Anne Quatrano, the chair of the James Beard Award committee, talked about the development of the new criteria in an interview with NPR.

“We take the allegations seriously,” she said. “And we want to move forward in a way that recognizes that this has been something that has been prevalent in our industry, but shouldn’t have been. And we would like for our judges to be empowered, to consider not just the food, but the atmosphere…”

Chefs will likely be required to take the “excellence in service” criteria to a new level as they strive to model excellent behavior and workmanship.

There is some concern about voters in the award process being unable to judge chefs’ behavior adequately. The James Beard behavior requirements may be difficult to judge. The behavior of some chefs, especially those who work late at night, may be difficult to assess.

However, the change to the award and the organization’s consideration of behavior has been welcomed by the public.

No, I don’t think that we’ve had any pushback” she said to NPR. “A chef by definition is a leader. It’s a chief, the chief of the kitchen. I think that we’ve all always believed that that chief needs to show good judgment, positive character, and also an environment that lets their staff and employees flourish.”

The semifinalists who model these aspects of judgement, character and craftsmanship in accordance with the standards of the organization were announced Feb. 15. Those who would like to attend the James Beard Awards Gala can do so on May 7 at the Lyric Opera opera of Chicago.

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Gabriella Evans

Northern Arizona University

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