The James Beard Foundation Award is the most coveted honor in the American food industry. It is often referred to as the “culinary Oscars.” But what do we really know about the man whose name has become synonymous with culinary excellence?
Watch American Masters–James Beard: America’s First Foodie May 19 at 9:00 p.m. on WCVE PBS/WHTJ PBS. Check listings for additional air-times.
The new documentary, James Beard: America’s First Foodie, premiers on WCVE PBS / WHTJ PBS Friday, May 19 at 9:00 p.m. as part of the 31st season of American Masters. The program chronicles a century of food through the story of the man behind the medal, the iconic cookbook author, journalist, television celebrity and teacher.
The film is the first of four American Masters “Chefs Flight” documentaries on culinary legends, which includes Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, and Alice Waters. Julia! America’s Favorite Chef will air at 10:00 p.m.
America’s back-to-basics food movement can be traced to the pioneering work of this one man. Dubbed the “Dean of American Cookery” by The New York Times, Beard was a Portland, Oregon native who loved and celebrated the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. He spoke of the importance of localism and sustainability long before those terms had entered the culinary vernacular. He was a forerunner of the farm-to-table movement and helped create the iconic Four Seasons concept and menu.
When the world was focusing on “all things French,” Beard appreciated what America had to bring to the table. A pioneer foodie, he was the first chef to go on television hosting the show I Love to Eat on NBC in 1946 to teach not only women but men how to cook.
He authored 22 cookbooks, penned a syndicated newspaper column and wrote countless magazine articles. He introduced Julia Child to New York – later becoming best buddies with her – and ran an acclaimed cooking school out of his townhouse in New York City.
Through a recorded and print oral history crafted by Beard himself, letters to friends and colleagues, rare archival footage, vintage photographs, and interviews with Beard’s friends and peers, the documentary reveals Beard’s talents, sense of humor, and genius.
Among those appearing on the film are James Beard Award Foundation President Susan Ungaro and Executive Vice President Mitchell Davis, James Beard Award winners, and noted chefs including Pépin, Waters, Daniel Boulud, Wolfgang Puck, and more.