James Beard born 5 May 1903 (d. 1985)
James Beard was an American chef and food writer. Although little known outside the US, James Beard is recognised by many as the father of American gastronomy.
James Beard was born in Portland, Oregon.
He trained initially as a singer and actor, and moved to New York City in 1937. Not having much luck in the theatre, he and his friend, Bill Rhodes, capitalised on the cocktail party craze by opening a catering company, Hors D'Oeuvre, Inc. which led the publication of Beard's first cookbook, Hors D'Oeuvre and Canapés, a compilation of his catering recipes. Rationing difficulties in World War 2 brought his catering business to a halt. In 1946 he appeared on an early televised cooking show, I Love to Eat on NBC, and thus began his rise as an eminent American food authority.
Over the next forty years, James Beard operated a cooking school out of his apartment in New York, wrote dozens of books on cooking and food, and hundreds of articles on food for many different magazines.
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 30 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 traveller, bringing his message of good food, honestly prepared with fresh, wholesome, American ingredients, to a country just becoming aware of its own culinary heritage.'
James Beard brought French cooking to the American middle and upper classes in the 1950s. Beard starred on TV as a cooking personality. He generated further income and financed his cooking schools by signing endorsement deals with various brands.
In 1981, along with friend Gael Greene, Beard founded Citymeals-on-Wheels, which continues to help feed the home-bound elderly in New York City.
Beard died 21 January 1985 in New York City of heart failure at the age of 81.
After Beard's death in 1985, his friends and former students organised the purchase of his New York residence to establish and permanently house the James Beard Foundation. The James Beard Foundation was set up in Beard's honour to provide scholarships to aspiring food professionals and to champion the American culinary tradition — which Beard helped create.
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 centre, a place where Foundation members, the press, and the general public are encouraged to savour 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. The Awards ceremony honours the finest chefs, restaurants, journalists, cookbook authors, restaurant designers, and electronic media professionals in the country.
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