The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) was subject of a media Twitter backlash yesterday after giving its top 2018 Cookbook Awards prize, the award for Cookbook of the Year, to a book co-written by its CEO. It will now revoke the awards.
The backstory: Martha Holmberg — a longtime cookbook author — also leads IACP, which has been doling out awards to publications, publishers, and authors for 40 years. Holmberg co-wrote Portland-based chef Joshua McFadden’s Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables, a book that was recognized as among the year’s best by a handful of publications, including Eater. During a Sunday-evening awards ceremony tied to the annual IACP conference, Six Seasons took home the “General Category” award, as well as the evening’s top honor, Cookbook of the Year. (Disclosure: Four Eater staffers participated in panels at the conference.)
Only after critics, including prominent cookbook author Julia Turshen, accused the organization of a conflict of interest did it agree, in a statement, to “remove” the awards it gave Six Seasons. In response to whether or not it will be giving the award to another book and author, a spokesperson wrote in an email to Eater: “We’re currently in the process of reviewing the scoring data. We’ll have more information on our next steps over the next day or so.”
IACP is also revisiting its policy to allow staff and board members to be nominated for awards. According to its statement:
We’re extremely concerned by what we see now as an appearance of impropriety, and we are taking steps to address this. We regret the shadow it has cast on our awards, the book, and IACP itself. We are so sorry that we let this happen and apologize to all for our lapse in judgment. We are therefore removing the Best Cookbook Award in our General Category and Cookbook of the Year from the book. Please note that Artisan, the book’s publisher, is not at fault in any way in this situation; the book was submitted in good faith and according to our rules at the time.
We believe the process by which books are judged and scored is sound and impartial. It is based on numerical scoring by independent judges that are collected and tabulated by a third-party online platform called Submittable. The book received the top scores. There is currently no policy that excludes IACP staff or board members from submitting to our awards.
We will be creating a new policy about ineligibility of staff and board; we don’t have the language for that policy yet but will share it when we do. We also plan to create an advisory council made up of industry leaders. We’ll publish the names of the council and the findings along with full policy language.
“I knew that I was nominated, obviously,” Holmberg told the Washington Post of the publisher’s submission. “But I did not know that I was going to be a winner... The first time that I learned that I was a winner was when I picked up the certificate.”