James Beard Foundation Announces Lifetime Achievement and Humanitarian of the Year Awards

The James Beard Foundation announced today that Jessica B. Harris, James Beard Award Who’s Who honoree, 2019 James Beard Award Cookbook Hall of Fame Award winner, author, journalist, culinary expert, and historian, has been named the recipient of the 2020 James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is bestowed upon a person in the industry whose body of work has had a positive and long-lasting impact on the way we eat, cook, and think about food in America. Additionally, Zero Foodprint, the nonprofit organization dedicated to building a carbon-neutral, renewable food system, has been named the recipient of the 2020 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award. The award is given to an individual or organization whose work in the realm of food has improved the lives of others and benefited society at large.

For the first year, Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown Properties and a James Beard Foundation trustee, has established the Michael Phillips Humanitarian Fund at the James Beard Foundation, which will award an annual cash prize of $20,000 to the Humanitarian of the Year. Jessica B. Harris and Zero Foodprint will be honored at this year’s 30th Anniversary of the James Beard Awards, presented by Capital One, on Monday, May 4, 2020, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Jessica B. Harris is an author, editor, and translator of eighteen books. Her twelve works on food document the foodways of the African Diaspora–a topic on which she is considered a ranking expert–and include Hot Stuff: A Cookbook in Praise of the Piquant; Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking; Beyond Gumbo: Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim; and High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America. Her other works include My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir and the forthcoming Vintage Postcards from the African World, a work presenting images of the foodways and celebrations of the African Atlantic World. A culinary historian, Harris lectures internationally, is a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and served on numerous boards for many professional culinary, publishing, and editorial organizations.

In almost five decades as a journalist, Harris has written extensively about the cultures of Africa and its diaspora for publications including Essence (where she was travel editor from 1977-1980), Cooking Light, Garden & Gun, Eating Well, Food & Wine, Saveur, The New York Times, and German Vogue, and has made television appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Sara Moulton’s Cooking Live, and B. Smith with Style, among others. Within the hospitality industry she has served as a consultant for national and international organizations ranging from Kraft Foods to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History, where her research and writings were essential to the development of the museum’s Sweet Home Café project, and is currently the lead curator for the Museum of Food and Drink’s exhibition, African/American: Making the Nation’s Table.

A native of New York City, Harris is Professor Emerita at Queens College/CUNY in New York City, where she was a professor for fifty years. Harris is the first African American woman to have addressed a graduating class at the Culinary Institute of America and is now — following in the footsteps of icon Leah Chase – the second African American woman to receive the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I am humbled, honored, and more than a little astonished to receive this singular award. I am mindful that while my name is on it, it is also meant for those African Americans in the hospitality world in the past who labored unheralded, un-thanked, and for too many centuries unpaid or underpaid. I hope that this extraordinary honor heralds the beginning of a new era when all Americans can sit down and fully participate at the nation’s table and none of us are strangers at the feast,” said Jessica B. Harris.

Zero Foodprint (ZFP) is a nonprofit organization building a renewable food system rooted in healthy soil. The organization is dedicated to mobilizing the cultural and economic power of the food and restaurant world to solve the climate crisis. To do so, ZFP invests in climate-beneficial agriculture via its grant-making program, Restore California. The organization partners with restaurants to crowd-fund grants for farmers making the switch from extractive to renewable farming. Practices such as compost application, cover cropping, and rotational grazing all help draw carbon out of the atmosphere and incorporate it into the soil, where it is beneficial. Implementing these regenerative farming practices not only helps farmers, but also improves ingredients available to participating restaurants.

Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz, award-winning restaurateurs, developed ZFP to support a growing movement of farmers and ranchers who want to use their land to solve climate change, but need vital funding to implement these new practices. Tiffany Nurrenbern, program director of ZFP, coordinates collaborations that foster collective action towards the organization’s overall mission to end climate change. Together, ZFP restaurants, diners, and farmers are shifting the nation’s farmland from climate problem to climate solution. In a recent announcement, ZFP shared that it will organize pilot projects across the United States in celebration of Earth Day. Restaurants can participate by adding a 1% surcharge from April 20 to 26, 2020, with proceeds going to the carbon farming project of their choice.

“We’re so excited to see the James Beard Foundation shining a spotlight on food and climate, because farmers are amazing, and the restaurant world can do so much to heal the world. We share this honor with all of the Zero Foodprint member restaurants and the farmers we work with, and we hope that the award brings in even more people, as we build on our Restore California program to support carbon farming projects around the country. This is an amazing moment to connect diners, restaurants, and farmers around better food and climate solutions through our Earth Day campaign,” said Karen Leibowitz, executive director of Zero Foodprint.

Tickets for the 30th anniversary James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago go on sale Wednesday, March 25, 2020, at 12:00 PM EST, and the Awards will be broadcast live via the James Beard Foundation’s Twitter feed.

About the 2020 James Beard Awards
The 2020 James Beard Awards will mark the 30th anniversary of America’s most coveted and comprehensive honors for chefs, restaurants, journalists, authors, and other leaders in the food and beverage industry. Throughout their three-decade history, the Beard Awards have both sparked and reflected trends in America’s food culture. To commemorate the past, honor the present, and look to the future, the Foundation is celebrating the semifinalists, nominees, winners, events, and milestones that have created the dynamic and ever enlightening food and restaurant community we have today.
Embodying the Foundation’s Good Food for Good™ mantra, the James Beard Awards support sustainability, gender equality, inclusion, equity, and access for all. As the preeminent benchmark for culinary excellence, the Awards will continue to support the James Beard Foundation’s mission to make America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone: celebrating the past while championing the future.

Nominees for all award categories will be revealed on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 in Philadelphia at The Barnes Foundation in partnership with VISIT PHILADELPHIA®. The celebrations will begin in New York City on Friday, April 24, 2020 at the James Beard Foundation Media Awards presented in association with HOUSTON FIRST©, an exclusive event honoring the nation’s top cookbook authors, culinary broadcast producers and hosts, and food journalists that will take place at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers.

The events then move to Chicago with the Leadership Awards Dinner, presented in association with Deloitte, taking place on Sunday, May 3, 2020, where honorees will be recognized for their work in creating a more healthful, sustainable, and just food world. The James Beard Awards Gala will take place on Monday, May 4, 2020, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. During the event, which is open to the public, awards for the Restaurant and Chef and Restaurant Design categories will be handed out, along with special achievement awards Lifetime Achievement, Design Icon, and America’s Classics. A gala reception will immediately follow, featuring top chefs and beverage professionals from across the country.

For the first year ever, the James Beard Awards House Presented by Capital One, official credit card and banking partner of the Foundation, will bring a dynamic, central gathering place during the Awards weekend, open Sunday, May 3, and Monday, May 4, 2020, at the Old Post Office (433 W. Van Buren Street, Chicago, IL). The Awards House will offer guests attending the Awards, members of the industry, and general public a chance to engage in programming that will include talks focusing on issues that affect the community such as racial equity, sustainability, wine tariffs, and more. Local partners Choose Chicago, The Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA), Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and multiple Chicago-based restaurant groups and chefs will take up residency in fun and delicious ways. A co-working space, a media lounge, hospitality and bar areas, and one-off events with sponsors and friends of the Foundation will be plentiful. A special 30th anniversary photo exhibit created by photographer
Melanie Dunea featuring past James Beard Award Winners and milestones will be open to guests. The full list of events and programming will be continually updated on the Foundation’s website, and ticket information is forthcoming.

The 2020 James Beard Awards are presented by Capital One, the official credit card and banking partner of the James Beard Foundation. Through this first-of-its-kind partnership, Capital One cardholders enjoy exclusive access across signature James Beard Foundation programs including the Taste America tour, JBF Greens: Foodies Under Forty, and the iconic James Beard House.

The James Beard Awards are proudly hosted by Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association and presented in association with Chicago O’Hare and Midway International Airports and Magellan Corporation, as well as the following partners: Premier Sponsors: All-Clad Metalcrafters, American Airlines, the official airline of the James Beard Foundation, HMSHost, Lavazza, S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water; Supporting Sponsors: Marriott Bonvoy™, National Restaurant Association®, Skuna Bay Salmon, Tabasco® Sauce, Valrhona, White Claw® Hard Seltzer, Windstar Cruises, the official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation; Gala Reception Sponsors: Ecolab, Front of the House®, Kendall College, with additional support from VerTerra Dinnerware. Intersport is the Official Broadcast
Partner of the 2020 James Beard Awards.

Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and further the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. The first James Beard Awards were given in 1991. The James Beard Awards are governed by the volunteer Awards Committee. Each Awards program (Restaurants and Chefs, Books, Journalism, Design, Broadcast Media, and Leadership) has its own subcommittee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards programs. All James Beard Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia.

About the James Beard Foundation
The James Beard Foundation’s mission is to promote Good Food for Good™. For more than 30 years, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization has highlighted the centrality of food culture in our daily lives. Through the James Beard Awards, unique dining experiences at the James Beard House and around the country, scholarships, hands-on learning, and a variety of industry programs that educate and empower leaders in our community, the Foundation has built a platform for chefs and asserted the power of gastronomy to drive behavior, culture, and policy change around food. To that end, the Foundation has also created signature impact-oriented initiatives that include our Women’s Leadership Programs, aimed at addressing the gender imbalance in the culinary industry; advocacy training through our Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change; and the James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards, which shine a spotlight on successful change makers. The organization is committed to giving chefs and their colleagues a voice and the tools they need to make the world more sustainable, equitable, and delicious for everyone. For more information, please visit jamesbeard.org and follow @beardfoundation on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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