Today, the James Beard Foundation announced updates to its awards categories for the forthcoming 2023 awards in a response to changing trends in the restaurant industry. One trend the foundation has picked up on: Bread is back and better than ever.
Given the proliferation and excellence of cookbooks focusing specifically on bread in recent history, it’s no surprise that the James Beard Awards will now include a specific category to recognize the best bread books published that year. According to a press release from the foundation, the bread book category will “include books with recipes focused on the art and craft of making bread, including ingredients, techniques, equipment, and traditions.” To be eligible, books must have been published in the 2022 calendar year.
Over the past 10 years, bread bakers have been recognized frequently in the baking and desserts category, with Kristina Cho’s Mooncakes and Milk Bread winning in 2022, Sarah C. Owens’ Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More winning in 2016, and Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza winning in 2013. And with so many great bread and bread-adjacent books published in 2022 (think The Miller’s Daughter or Bread Head), and an ever-growing list of bread books to come in the future (Maurizio Leo’s The Perfect Loaf, King Arthur’s Baking School, and more), competition for the new bread category will surely be steep. (The baking and desserts category will remain to recognize cookbooks on desserts and sweet and savory baking and pastries.)
And while home bakers’ bread cookbook shelves have grown in 2022, so have the number of professional bakers: In 2023 the awards will also include a new category for outstanding bakery, which will recognize a “baker of breads, pastries, or desserts that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations, while contributing positively to its broader community.” In an interesting twist, this baker does not have to have a brick-and-mortar — so pop-ups and cottage bakeries will be considered — but they must have been baking for the public for the past three years to be considered. The outstanding baker category, however, has been eliminated in favor of acknowledging just one outstanding baker or pastry chef, defined as a person “working as a pastry chef or chef who makes desserts or breads for the past three years.”
Other notable changes to the 2023 awards include a book awards category for Food Issues and Advocacy, a dedicated award for beverage-focused journalism, and an expansion of the outstanding bar and outstanding wine program categories to encompass drinks of all kinds. This means a wine bar is eligible to win in the former category and a restaurant serving great cocktails can be up for the latter award, now called outstanding wine and other beverages program. The foundation is accepting entries and nominees for all categories now through November 30.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.