“Football players want to go to the Super Bowl, Chefs want to go to the Beard House.” -Chef Hal
If you’re a chef, cooking at the Beard House is something that should naturally be on the agenda of your professional life. Chefs are invited to “perform” there. Once there, you present either a lunch, brunch, workshop, or a dinner to James Beard Foundation members and the public.
When you’re invited, you provide everything…staff, food, travel…it’s expensive. The House provides the waiters and the dishwashers. From an exposure standpoint, you’re sharing yourself with other people who have the same values within the industry. The house only seats about 74, so it’s a very limited and exceptional experience. People that are into this world would rather go there for a date night than a restaurant.
Most people know of Julia Childs, but if you like good food and enjoy dining, you’ll want to be familiar with the name James Beard. He was a man who dedicated much of his life to the art and science of culinary production and even the New York Times dubbed him “Dean of American cookery”. He nurtured a generation of American chefs and cookbook authors who’ve changed the way we eat.
He wrote several books and even appeared in his own segment on television’s first cooking show on NBC in 1946. He wrote articles for Woman’s Day, Gourmet, and House & Garden. He was a consultant to restaurateurs as well as food producers, and ran his own restaurant on Nantucket.
He established the James Beard Cooking School in 1955 and then his personal home, located in New York City’s Greenwich Village, became a center for cooking and training. The mission of the Beard House today is to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America’s culinary heritage. The best chefs in the country cook in that kitchen. The energy that must live within the walls of that building…I can’t even imagine. The minds that have passed through it, the excellence that has been executed…it’s a sacred ground for chefs for sure.
Nashville isn’t a stranger to Beard House. Good friends in town have gone and participated. Just recently, Patrick Martin (Martin’s Bar-B-Que), Carey Bringle (Peg Leg Porker) Tandy Wilson, (City House), Brandon Frohne (Mason’s). Lockeland Table was fortunate enough to be nominated for the coveted James Beard Best New Restaurant award back in 2013.
Last November we participated in the local inaugural Beards for Beard event at Green Door Gourmet where the Whole Hog Roast proceeds went to the local James Beard scholarship fund where future culinaries can apply.
Chefs are invited to cook at the Beard House by the director of house programming—and it’s a process. Talented, independent restaurant chefs seek this…and should. Chefs, members, staff, volunteer program committee members, or other interested parties can recommend a chef to cook there. The criteria they use for selections includes things like national or regional reputation, the restaurant’s known use of high quality, seasonal, and/or local ingredients, demonstrated excellence in a particular discipline (regional, ethnic, pastry…), a desire on the part of the chef and restaurant, and even the submission of a complete event proposal, including menu and wines. It’s intense.
Apparently, final selections are based on your proposed event menu and wine list, consideration of calendar and events, holiday or theme that appropriately match certain chefs, historical trends, professional expertise and a bunch of other things.
The people making those decisions are some pretty heavy hitters, like food and wine professionals and gastronomic enthusiasts who represent the Foundation on a volunteer basis. They meet monthly and suggest the various chefs.
I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I want to cook there. And soon. Keep an eye on our social media for when we land a spot. When we do, you’re all invited!