Add These 2020 James Beard Award-Winning Books to Your Shelf
This year’s winners included Jubilee by Toni Tipton-Martin, The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland, and more.
If you’re looking for new books to read and cook from, these James Beard Award winners are a great place to start.
Earlier this week, the James Beard Foundation announced the winners of the 2020 Media Awards, which recognize the best in books, broadcast media, and journalism. The book award categories span from baking and desserts to photography—they’re not just limited to cookbooks, either, and also highlight other non-fiction food- or beverage-related books. There’s The World Atlas of Wine 8th Edition by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, if you’re looking to brush up on your wine knowledge, and Jeffrey Larsen’s Gluten-Free Baking at Home, which offers recipes for over 100 baked goods. Plus, The Whole Fish Cookbook from Josh Niland, which snagged not one, but two awards this year.
We’ve gathered all 13 awarded books, organized by their respective award category, in case you want to add them to your collection. Read on for the list and start making room on your shelf.
American—Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking
In Jubilee, Toni Tipton-Martin takes recipes she gathered during research for her 2015 book, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks—another Beard winner—and adapts them into a modern cookbook. You’ll find wilted greens mixed with bacon, baked ham glazed with Champagne and Champagne cocktails, pecan pie with bourbon, seafood gumbo, buttermilk fried chicken, and more. The book presents “the techniques, ingredients, and dishes that show the roots of African American cooking—deeply beautiful, culturally diverse, fit for celebration,” per the description.
Baking and Desserts—Living Bread: Tradition and Innovation in Artisan Bread Making
Daniel Leader of Bread Alone bakery—which made our list of the 100 best bakeries in America—is back with another cookbook, and it won the “Baking and Desserts” category in this year’s Beards. Living Bread dives into how artisan bread baking has evolved, from “wheat farming practices and advances in milling, to sourdough starters and the mechanics of mixing dough.” Recipes include vegan brioche, chocolate sourdough babka, and pompe à l’huile, a sweet bread Leader notes is unique to the South of France.
Beverage with Recipes—The NoMad Cocktail Book
The NoMad Cocktail Book from Leo Robitschek (currently VP of Food & Beverage at the Sydell Group) was originally published as a separate book within The NoMad Cookbook. Now, you can use this revised standalone edition to make all sorts of drinks, whether you’re in the mood for a classic cocktail or need to whip up something large-format. The book is organized by type of beverage, with 100-plus new recipes for a grand total of over 300. A quick glance shows the “Sons of Liberty,” a fall sour with apple and Earl Grey, and a variation of a Manhattan made with smoked tea.
Beverage without Recipes—World Atlas of Wine 8th Edition
Jancis Robinson received two Beard nods this year, both for The World Atlas of Wine 8th Edition, co-authored with Hugh Johnson, and the “Cookbook Hall of Fame” award. This latest edition of the World Atlas of Wine features 20 new maps, a revised introduction, new infographics, “expanded coverage of Alentejo, Central Coast, Chile, Yarra Valley, Marlborough and China,” and more, per Robinson’s website.
General—Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook
The "general" category is defined as books including recipes that “address a broad scope of cooking, not just a single topic, technique or region.” This year, Bon Appetit food editor at large Carla Lalli Music won with Where Cooking Begins, a book that’s organized into three sections: “The Strategy,” “The Techniques,” and finally, “The Recipes.” There are detailed guides for six essential cooking methods (including steaming and sautéing), a list of Music’s essential spices and “dessert island” kitchen equipment, and other helpful advice, which all lead up to over 70 recipes.
Health and Special Diets—Gluten-Free Baking at Home: 102 Foolproof Recipes for Delicious Breads, Cakes, Cookies, and More
Food stylist and recipe developer Jeffrey Larsen provides over 100 recipes for baked goods in this book, from blueberry crisp and roasted banana cake to chocolate chip cookies. They’re not only designed to be gluten-free, but free of other allergens as well, such as dairy and soy, with substitutions in place for each.
International—Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa
In Ethiopia, chef Yohanis Gebreyesus offers the essential dishes of Ethiopia, from doro wat and siga tibs to injera, the flatbread made from teff flour. The cuisine also includes a lot of vegetarian recipes—for example, gomen, minced collard greens with ginger and garlic. As you leaf through, you'll find recipes, stories, and photographs of the country's landscape and artisans, all an homage to a food culture that is described as "as fascinatingly distinct as it is startlingly delicious."
Photography—American Sfoglino: A Master Class in Handmade Pasta
Chef Evan Funke’s debut cookbook helps readers become master pasta makers by sharing techniques from his Emilia-Romagna training. It covers 15 classic pasta shapes and four foundational doughs—the striking photography from Eric Wolfinger won the Beard.
Reference, History, and Scholarship—The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration
The Reference, History, and Scholarship category includes “manuals, guides, encyclopedias, and books that present research related to food or foodways.” The 2020 winner is The Whole Okra from Chris Smith, which not only includes recipes—fried okra pods, okra flower vodka, okra soup by culinary historian Michael Twitty, bhindi masala by chef Meherwan Irani—but okra history, projects, and tips for gardening, and more. Smith’s fascination with okra led him to experiment with it in his kitchen, and he did plenty of research, too, including uses for okra that go beyond culinary, like its history as a fiber crop for making paper.
Restaurant and Professional/Book of the Year—The Whole Fish Cookbook: New Ways to Cook, Eat and Think
Sydney chef Josh Niland not only won the “Restaurant and Professional” book award this year, but “Book of the Year” as well. The Whole Fish Cookbook goes way beyond the fillet and aims to show readers that fish should be treated “exactly with the same nose-to-tail reverence as meat.” There’s over 60 recipes, from fish cassoulet to fish and chips, and the book covers everything from sourcing to techniques like dry aging. You can hear more from Niland on our Communal Table podcast.
Single Subject—Pasta Grannies: The Official Cookbook: The Secrets of Italy's Best Home Cooks
Vicky Bennison’s Pasta Grannies was inspired by her YouTube channel of the same name, and it features over 80 recipes from Italian grandmothers, all over the country. There’s “Guiseppa’s Fingernail Pasta with Tomato Sauce,” pici (a type of hand-rolled spaghetti), and many, many more—all made by hand. You can find one of the recipes on our site, parsley egg noodles with squash-and-tomato sugo.
Vegetable-Focused Cooking—Whole Food Cooking Every Day: Transform the Way You Eat with 250 Vegetarian Recipes Free of Gluten, Dairy, and Refined Sugar
Whole Food Cooking Every Day is another cookbook that provides gluten-free recipes, with the addition of them being dairy- and refined sugar-free, too. Chaplin focuses on ingredients that are “key to a healthy diet,” such as seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—combined with techniques, the book enables readers to riff on the recipes and create their own versions.
Whole Food Cooking Every Day: Transform the Way You Eat with 250 Vegetarian Recipes Free of Gluten, Dairy, and Refined Sugar by Amy Chaplin, $22 (list price $40) at amazon.com and $36 (was $40) at barnesandnoble.com
Writing—Eat Like a Fish: My Adventures as a Fisherman Turned Restorative Ocean Farmer
In Eat Like a Fish, former commercial fisherman-turned restorative ocean farmer Bren Smith presents ocean farming as a solution to the global climate crisis. The book includes recounts of his own experiences, advice for starting your own underwater garden, and even a few recipes, too. "As ocean farmers, we can simultaneously create jobs, feed the planet, and fight climate change," Smith writes in the introduction.