James Beard: Fun Facts for Foodies

Elisa Lichtenbaum | May 16, 2017
Chef James Beard

Chef James Beard in his kitchen on West 12th street, New York, NY. Photo by Dan Wynn

The James Beard Foundation Award is the most coveted honor in the American food industry. It is often referred to as the “culinary Oscars.” But what do we really know about the man whose name has become synonymous with culinary excellence? Learn more about James Beard (1903-1985) in a brand new documentary from American Masters, James Beard: America’s First Foodie, premiering Friday, May 19 on PBS (check local listings). It’s part of the series’ Chefs Flight in May, which includes films on Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, and Alice Waters.

Fun Facts

  1. Dubbed the “Dean of American Cookery” by The New York Times in 1954.
  2. Hosted I Love to Eat (NBC, 1946-1947), believed to be the first cooking show on television.
  3. A larger-than-life personality, Beard pursued an acting career in his youth — until 1937, when he opened a small food shop called Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc. and realized his future lay in the world of food and cooking.
  4. In 1955, he established the James Beard Cooking School.
  5. Helped start Citymeals on Wheels with longtime New York Magazine restaurant critic Gael Greene.
  6. The James Beard Foundation Award, the most coveted honor in the American food industry, is known as the “Culinary Oscar.”

Memorable Quote

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

Notable Books

WELCOME TO THE 40s: The original cover of Hors d’Oeuvre & Canapés, Beard’s 1940 book on cocktail food.

WELCOME TO THE 40s: The original cover of Hors d’Oeuvre & Canapés, Beard’s 1940 book on cocktail food.


Hors d’Oeuvre & Canapés , 1940.
The first major cookbook devoted exclusively to cocktail food.

Cook It Outdoors , 194.
The first serious work on outdoor cooking.

James Beard’s Menus for Entertaining , 1965.
Includes this highly dramatic note in the introduction: “To entertain successfully one must create with the imagination of a playwright, plan with the skill of a director, and perform with the instincts of an actor.”

James Beard’s American Cookery, 2010.
Includes 1,500 of his favorite and most successful recipes.