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Posts Tagged ‘James Beard Foundation’

New Chef Corps Aims to Re-Brand American Food

Anyone who has seen a few episodes of “No Reservations” or “Top Chef” knows that the United States boasts a very active and incredibly diverse culinary culture. Unfortunately, many of our overseas brethren think that American food begins and ends with Colonel Sanders and the golden arches.

The State Department and the James Beard Foundation would like to change all that, and last Friday they officially named more than 80 big chefs from across the US as members of the first “American Chef Corps.”

The team includes such food-world luminaries as Dan Barber of Blue Hill and April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig (sorry, we’re partial to New York), and their responsibilities will include preparing distinctly American meals for foreign dignitaries, conducting educational programs for audiences overseas, and inviting top chefs from around the world to cook in their stateside kitchens. Most importantly, they want to remind our overseas friends that American food is, in many cases, quite good. While they won’t get paid for the honor, they do get free uniforms.

This sounds like a fairly interesting idea!

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Why Is the Restaurant Industry Such a Boys’ Club?

There’s a reason the restaurant business plays host to so many big egos: Everybody loves fancy food, and reality TV has only encouraged the industry to grow flashier while elevating its baddest (or lamest) dudes to larger-than-life status. One question, though: Where are all the women?

Beyond April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig and Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, we can’t think of too many prominent female chefs (sorry, but Sandra Lee, Paula Deen and Rachael Ray do not count). Sure, we know that our knowledge is pretty much limited to New York, and there are quite a few very talented women running kitchens around the country right now—check out The Daily Feast’s great list of 15 “badass” female chefs—but guys’ guys like Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali still hog the lion’s share of the spotlight.

In a telling interview with the Village Voice’s Fork in the Road food blog, current James Beard Foundation president Susan Ungaro talks about why the industry feels like such a boys’ club—and what it will take to encourage young female chefs to take the reins and step into the spotlight. Here’s the money quote:

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Food Bloggers Gain Media Stature

The James Beard Foundation, the “Oscars of the food world,” has given food bloggers a legitimacy these writers didn’t have before. Beginning this month, the Foundation will no longer distinguish between print and online reporting when dishing out its awards.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the amount of writing that food bloggers do can vary from writer to writer, with some bloggers tweeting courses during the meal, while others, like Gastroville, go quiet for months. But just as important, bloggers will cover restaurants that traditional food reporters can’t get to because of time or travel expense. Many of the food bloggers highlighted in the Journal article write their blogs as a side gig (one woman is a model).

If this is your media target, getting a placement on an award-winning site just became a better hit.