The James Beard Foundation Awards are among the highest honors in the American food world. After two tense years, the honoring ceremony for chefs and restaurants, as in pre-pandemic times, is set to continue at a ceremony in Chicago Monday 13 June 2022. As in previous years, there will also be a Media Award in June. (The foundation hasn’t announced the official date, but it was often within the week before the Restaurant & Chef Awards.) The semifinalist list is expected sometime in February, with finalists for restaurant, chef, and media awards landing in March.
The 2022 awards are the foundation’s first installment an extensive examination, and will feature some key new protocols, including a different way to surface talent, personal testimonies from nominees, and different award categories. The canceled 2020 ceremony was, by and large, a mess; The foundation initially blamed the pandemic, but reporting also suggested it had canceled the awards because there were no black winners and concerns about bullying and sexism allegations among the nominees. Some chefs voluntarily disregarded, others were reportedly told they would be made redundant. The 2021 program has been canceled to allow sufficient time to review and implement changes. All in all, the foundation lost a lot the credibility surrounding its most high-profile contribution to America’s culinary landscape: its awards program.
The 2022 Awards will be watching not only to see who wins, but also to see whether the promises of the exam are being fulfilled and whether the interventions and changes made by the Foundation actually result in a more diverse and comprehensive list of winners – and arguably more importantly, to see which ranks among America’s most historically coveted culinary awards.