The James Beard Foundation Just Announced a New CEO
The James Beard Foundation announced today that Clare Reichenbach will be taking over as CEO, starting February 20. She will be replacing Susan Ungaro, who stepped down after 11 years of leading the influential culinary non-profit at the end of last year.
Reichenbach is the founder of CJJR Consulting and a former executive at BBC Worldwide and AMC Networks. Though she doesn't have a culinary background, in an interview on the JBF website, she says, "I am never happier than when cooking for my family and friends. It truly feeds my heart and soul."
Reichenbach will oversee programs such as the James Beard Foundation Awards, dinners at the James Beard House, the scholarship programs and the JBF Women’s Leadership Programs, an initiative she calls "more critical than ever" in light of the recent reports of sexual assualt and harrasment plaguing the industry. (See Food & Wine's Communal Table, a new forum for amplifying voices in the food industry in an effort to create better working environments for all.)
"More recently, with the allegations of misconduct against members of the industry and revelations about the culture of restaurants, the Foundation has been actively consulting the industry to understand how we can best support the change needed. I am very motivated to build on the current programs, and to amplify the levels of involvement and impact," Reichenbach says.
In another cultural touchstone, it's notable that the most recent round of James Beard Awards, the American Classics, all went to restaurants belonging to immigrants. Historically, this award often celebrates restaurants opened by immigrants, but this is the first year where every one of the five awards honors immigrant restaurant owners. It's too soon to see how Reichenbach's leadership will impact the organization, but considering the fact that it's one of the biggest jobs in the food world, and a critical moment for the culture of the food industry at large, all eyes will be watching.