January 16, 2021

Beard Foundation Undercut Integrity of Its Awards, Panel Says

The awards, considered the most prestigious and influential in American culinary circles, are presented in a black-tie ceremony in Chicago each May. This spring, as the coronavirus pandemic brought the restaurant business to a near-standstill, the event was postponed until September.

Then, in August, the organization, a nonprofit group, made an unusual decision: It would name no winners for its restaurant and chef awards, beyond a handful that had already been announced, citing the pandemic, among other reasons. Next year, there would be no awards at all. The foundation would use the down time for an audit that would look for ways of making the awards more inclusive of people and groups who had often been left behind by the restaurant industry. The awards are supposed to return in 2022.

Last month, though, several committee members, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of a confidentiality agreement, told The Times that the foundation’s decision had come after several weeks of behind-the-scenes turmoil. After a vote, in May, on a ballot that listed about five nominees in each category, the foundation received accusations against several of the nominees, varying in seriousness and specificity.

On a phone call in July that was arranged to discuss the new allegations, “a Foundation employee revealed that there were not any Black people among this year’s winners,” the statement from the restaurant-awards committee said. “Apparently in response, the Foundation proposed a revote.”

The proposal was to strike nominees who had come under fire, and to send a revised ballot to a much smaller group of voters than before. Ballots would go to the awards committee itself and the 200 or so regional judges they select, but not to the largest bloc, the hundreds of past awardees whose vote is a perk of having won.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/09/dining/james-beard-awards.html

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