After the Beard awards were canceled this year, some would like a broader reckoning
As we reported last week, the James Beard Foundation will not announce the winners of its 2020 restaurant awards, and the organization plans to pause the competition next year as well. Chefs and critics had mixed reactions to this decision—some saw the cancellation as a good thing, given the disruptions to the industry caused by Covid-19, and others saw it as unnecessarily secretive: If this year’s winners were already chosen, why not reveal their names? Either way, the foundation has announced it will reexamine its nomination and selection process to get rid of “any systemic bias.” As critic Soleil Ho writes this week for the San Francisco Chronicle, maybe it’s time for the foundation to consider a broader cross-section of the food industry by honoring excellence among career servers and dishwashers or expanding the range of the businesses eligible for awards to include caterers and street vendors. It also makes sense to introduce an award category recognizing restaurants that treat their staff exceedingly well. And while we’re at it, why not revoke past awards for chefs and restaurateurs who have since received substantiated accusations of sexual misconduct?