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The James Beard Foundation Is Looking for a President

This is one of the most prestigious jobs in the food world

Susan Ungaro
Mark Von Holden/WireImage/Getty
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

Huge news in the food world: The James Beard Foundation has just announced via press release that longtime president Susan Ungaro will be stepping down at the end of the year. The Foundation’s board will be conducting a “national search” for their next leader.

It’s worth noting that this is one of the most prestigious and highest paid jobs for non-chefs non-television stars in the food world. As of 2016, Ungaro was taking home an impressive $350,000 - $385,000 yearly, according to this JBF tax return (PDF).

Ungaro has been the Foundation’s president for 11 years, righting the course after a period of scandal and tumult. She saw the awards ceremony grow in prestige and pomp, spearheading its move to Lincoln Center. She also played a role in moving the festivities from New York City to Chicago — annoying for many, but a boon to the Foundation no doubt.

Below, the press release, which offers a summary of Ungaro’s time at the James Beard Foundation.

The James Beard Foundation Announces Susan Ungaro Will Step Down as President at the End of 2017; National Search for Next Leader to be Launched

~ Ungaro has led the Foundation to become the preeminent culinary organization dedicated to celebrating, nurturing, and honoring America’s diverse culinary heritage ~

New York, NY (June 27, 2017) – The James Beard Foundation (JBF) announced today that Susan Ungaro will step down as president of the James Beard Foundation. Ungaro will continue to serve in her role as president of the Foundation untilDecember 31, 2017, while the Board conducts a national search for a new leader.

During her 11 years of unparalleled success for the Foundation, Ungaro was a constant champion of the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. Under her leadership, the Foundation enjoyed national and global recognition, initiated a host of thought leadership initiatives and grew substantially to educate and inspire countless members of the culinary community. Her many accomplishments include expanding the renowned James Beard Awards and moving it successfully to Lincoln Center in NYC and then to Chicago. She also spearheaded the launch of an annual JBF Food Conference, fostering dialogue and action to improve our nation’s food system, and created the JBF Leadership Awards, which recognize visionaries in business, government, and education responsible for creating a healthier, safer, and more sustainable food system. Ungaro has also been tireless in highlighting the impact of the organization, promoting diversity in the restaurant industry and reinforcing its position as a change agent in the culinary field. This includes the creation of the JBF’s Women’s Leadership Programs: the inaugural Women in Culinary Leadership (WCL) program and the Women in Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) program, launching in September at Babson College.

“Susan ushered in an era of amazing growth and success for the Foundation and furthered its mission in the U.S. and around the world. She helped place the Foundation at the forefront of the culinary conversation and advocated for its wide-reaching initiatives. Susan’s presence will be missed by her colleagues and friends, but we look forward to Susan’s continued involvement in the future of the Foundation,” said Fred Seegal, newly named JBF Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Emily Luchetti, outgoing Board Chair.

“It has been a special privilege to serve as president of the James Beard Foundation for over a decade," said Ungaro. "I believe the time is right for me to start my next adventure helping other nonprofits making a difference in people's lives. It has been a joy and honor to work with the talented and dedicated Foundation staff and Board of Trustees. I look forward to working closely with the board and staff during this transition period. I remain passionately committed to supporting the James Beard Foundation in the years to come and staying connected to the extraordinary culinary community of chefs, restaurateurs, food media and thought leaders, who welcomed me into their world 11 years ago."

Throughout her career at the Foundation and as editor-in-chief of Family Circle magazine, Ungaro has served on the boards of other nonprofits, including HELP USA, The Marrow Foundation and The Brazelton Foundation. She also serves on the advisory councils of the Culinary Council of Food Bank for New York City, the National Advisory Board of C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program), and the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Safe and Healthy New York Foods. Among her numerous honors, Ungaro was named one of Adweek’s 30 Most Influential People in Food in 2016; to Irish America’s Top 50 Power Women in 2016; in The Daily Meal’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food from 2011-2014; and was the subject of a MPW (Most Powerful Women) profile Ungaro’s frequent television appearances for the Foundation include Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay, Iron Chef America, and Dinner Impossible, Bravo’s Top Chef, NBC’s TODAY Show, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.