The James Beard Awards are happening on Monday, the first ceremony held by the Beard Foundation after a two-year absence fueled by both the COVID-pandemic and an extremely public 2020 controversy surrounding the integrity of the awards. After an audit and efforts to diversify the judging and restaurant committees, the awards officially returned this year, with its list of 2022 Restaurant and Chef Award finalists dropping in April. As in years past, the winners will be feted at an industry-laden ceremony in Chicago, which kicks off Monday, June 13 at 5:30 CST. Chef Kwame Onwuachi (who received the Beard Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2019) will act as host.
The Restaurant and Chef Awards follow a weekend’s worth of programming — both official and unofficial — throughout Chicago, as well as the ceremony for the Bear Foundation’s Media Awards, which will be handed out tomorrow — Saturday, June 11, at 5 p.m. CT — in a ceremony hosted by Lisa Ling. [Update: The complete list of Media Award winners is here.] Here’s everything you need to know about the Beard’s return — including how to watch it all online.
When and where are the James Beard Awards taking place, and how can I watch?
The Restaurant and Chef Award nominees will gather at the Lyric Opera of Chicago for a gala kicking off at 5:30 p.m. CST (aka 6:30 p.m. EST and 3:30 p.m. PST) on Monday, June 13. The Beard Foundation’s official Twitter account, @beardfoundation, will be live streaming the event. The Media Awards will also be streamed live on Twitter.
What’s changed since the last awards in 2019?
To start, the 2022 finalists list represents what Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan notes is “the most diverse — across race, gender, geography, styles of service, and styles of cuisine — in the foundation’s history.”
What was once known as the Rising Star Chef of the Year award has been changed to Emerging Chef, doing away with the prior award’s age limitations; Outstanding Service has been renamed Outstanding Hospitality and now also recognizes, in addition to public-facing service, a restaurant that [makes] “efforts to provide a sustainable work culture.” In order to recognize more chefs, California, New York, and Texas were each reshuffled into their own regional Best Chef categories, leaving more breathing room for their compatriots in the West, Northeast, and Southwest categories, respectively. And there’s no Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional award this year.
That all seems cool; how did we get here?
To recap that controversy: In 2020, as protests for racial justice spilled into broader demands for accountability across many workplaces, the restaurant industry reckoned (and continues to reckon) with widespread allegations of discrimination and misconduct, and open questions about how it had sustained misbehavior for so long. That summer of reckoning coincided with the 2020 awards, which were postponed a few times due to the pandemic, before they were canceled altogether. Shortly after that cancellation announcement, members of the Beard Awards committee — i.e. the folks tasked with shepherding the awards — sent a letter to the foundation’s board expressing concerns over the organization’s own working conditions and diversity; how the foundation had handled allegations about misbehavior concerning some of that year’s nominees; as well as the fact that none of the year’s winners were Black. In the ensuing fallout, some publicly questioned the Foundation’s ethics.
In response, the foundation conducted an audit that scrapped the awards for two awards, and resulted in what it says are actionable changes to the process. There would be an independent ethics committee created to vet any allegations of misconduct. Formal goals were set to diversify the judging pool, with the benchmark of 45 percent of committee members and judges being people of color in 2022 and 50 percent by 2023; criteria for judges changed, too, in a way that would welcome more non-industry voices into the mix. The voting process also changed, with two tiers of judges and levels of judging designed to cast a wider net to find potential nominees.
Want to watch?
The Beard Foundation’s live stream / Tweets will unfurl here on during the Media Awards on Saturday, June 11, and the Restaurant and Chef Awards on Monday, June 13:
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.