The James Beard Foundation Makes Major Changes to Its Awards Process

The new policies aim to diversify the pool of applicants and winners. 

As part of a long-term effort to diversify the winners of food's highest honor, the James Beard Foundation is making some major tweaks to its awards process. Going into effect on October 15, the new rules "are a first step intended to increase gender, race, and ethnic representation in the governance and outcomes of the Awards, as well as to increase transparency of the judging process, and to make entry to the Awards more accessible than ever before," reads a statement from the foundation.

One significant change is waiving the fee on submissions for the the Book, Broadcast Media, and Design Awards, from October 15 to 29, which removes any financial barrier to entry. And all first-time submissions will have their fee waived for the entire entry period, which extends until January 2, 2019.

The foundation says it has also made a renewed effort to increase diversity and transparency among judging committees.

"The idea is to make sure it’s more indicative of who is working in the industry and that people are doing what they should be doing,” chef Anne Quatrano told the New York Times. (Quatrano oversees the awards.) “We want to keep the momentum of last year’s awards moving forward, which we don’t want people to think for any reason was some kind of a fluke. These are still merit-based awards.”

Indeed, the 2018 James Beard Awards marked a significant shift in the foundation's history, with more women and people of color receiving recognition than ever before.

Clare Reichenbach, who was named CEO of the organization in February, has been vocal about her commitment to inclusion, as well as workplace conduct and character. In Tuesday's announcement, the foundation also stated they were retiring the Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America list, which includes alleged sexual harassers and assaulters like Mario Batali and John Besh and an overwhelmingly white and male list of honorees.

"Due to the nature of the Award, for which only past honorees are able to nominate new members, the Who’s Who committee has decided to retire it, memorializing the current Who’s Who, but ceasing to induct new members," the statement reads.

The 2019 James Beard Awards celebrations begin in N.Y.C. on April 26, 2019, with the James Beard Media Award, followed by the The James Beard Awards Gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on May 6, 2019.

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