After taking a two-year break from award-giving, the James Beard Foundation announced that “the next evolution” of the James Beard Awards will take place in 2022. The 2022 James Beard Awards will reflect policy and procedure changes in light of an audit that began in August 2020 and will be completed this summer. Per the announcement, the Awards audit focuses on “a code of ethics, composition of committees and judges, criteria for winners, and developing policies and procedures for unforeseen events,” all with the aim to “ensure a more transparent and equitable process for the future.”
The James Beard Foundation essentially canceled its 2020 awards citing pandemic-related hardships in the American restaurant industry. The cancellation happened in a sort of slow-motion train wreck of crises: After revealing the list of finalists in May then committing to a virtual ceremony later that year, the Foundation announced in August 2020 that it would not be giving out awards in 2020 or 2021. The following day, Eater reported that the Foundation had quietly added a note to its list of 2020 nominees: Several had withdrawn their names. Within a week of the cancellation announcement, the New York Times reported that it wasn’t just the pandemic that had prompted the Foundation to cancel the virtual event. Two additional factors were at play: 1) the Foundation had learned that there were to be no Black winners and 2) as workers spent the summer exposing abusive conditions at restaurants around the country, the Foundation could not figure out how to account for all the accusations being leveled at current nominees. Some members of the JBFA voting committees told the Times and Eater that ultimately, decision-making surrounding the 2020 awards lacked transparency at best, or attempted to change the outcomes — compromising the integrity of the awards — at worst.
Instead, the Beard Foundation scrapped its usual awards and hosted an online ceremony via Twitter in September 2020, which honored the nominees (the ones whose names remained on the list), the America’s Classics winners, and previously announced winners in categories like Leadership and Lifetime Achievement. A planned 2021 ceremony will not be the James Beard Awards as they’re traditionally known, but seemingly something similar to 2020’s version: “a celebration of the independent restaurant community, honoring those who have made a significant impact on the industry and in their communities during this crisis.” More details on the 2021 event to come in the following weeks; as of now, the Foundation is only noting that there will be both virtual and in-person elements.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards.