Most recently, revelations at Bon Appetit magazine have made evident the role that gatekeeping plays in the food and food media worlds in terms of preventing women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized communities from getting a seat at the table. This panel will explore this dynamic of exclusion, as well as how members of marginalized communities have been able to break through by both playing by the rules and breaking them. Panelists will include writers such as Victoria James ( Wine Girl: The Humiliations, Obstacles, and Triumphs of America’s Youngest Sommelier ), John Birdsall ( The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard ), and Jessica Harris ( My Soul Looks Back ) whose works have focused on breaking into exclusive worlds and the barriers to doing so. Moderated by Priya Krishna , author of Indian-ish .
… Birdsall’s sentences have rhythm, too, and compress time and place so that a meal becomes a history, from oysters “hauled down from shoals above the terrifyingly wide mouth of the Columbia and fried in an abundance of butter” to dinner at night near Les Halles in the 1920s, then the meatpacking district of Paris, “where butchermen in bloody smocks demolished plates of tripe and calf’s brains, washing away thirst and the reek of carnage with entire bottles of cool, violet-scented Beaujolais.”
Join us for a special lunchtime event with author John Birdsall for his new biography of James Beard, alongside Emmy-winning Ted Allen.
About this Event
In the first portrait of James Beard in twenty-five years, John Birdsall accomplishes what no prior telling of Beard’s life and work has done: He looks beyond the public image of the “Dean of American Cookery” to give voice to the gourmet’s complex, queer life and, in the process, illuminates the history of American food in the twentieth century. At a time when stuffy French restaurants and soulless Continental cuisine prevailed, Beard invented something strange and new: the notion of an American cuisine.
Informed by previously overlooked correspondence, years of archival research, and a close reading of everything Beard wrote, this majestic biography traces the emergence of personality in American food while reckoning with the outwardly gregarious Beard’s own need for love and connection, arguing that Beard turned an unapologetic pursuit of pleasure into a new model for food authors and experts.
John Birdsall is a two-time James Beard Award-winning author, a former food critic, and longtime restaurant cook. He is the coauthor of a cookbook, Hawker Fare, with James Syhabout. He lives in Tucson.
Emmy award winner Ted Allen is the host of the long-running Food Network series “Chopped” and “Chopped Junior,” which has received two James Beard Awards. He first came to television on Bravo network as a cast member of the original, Emmy-winning “Queer Eye,” and was a recurring judge on both Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and Bravo’s “Top Chef” for several seasons. He’s written two cookbooks: “The Food You Want to Eat” and “In My Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate Cooks,” both published by Clarkson-Potter. He was a contributing writer for Esquire from 1996 until 2003. Ted holds an M.A. in journalism from New York University, with an advanced certificate in the school’s Science and Environmental Reporting Program, and a B.A. in psychology from Purdue University. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband, Barry Rice.
… In the decades that followed World War II, no public figure prosecuted the cause of introducing America to seasonality, freshness, and culinary pleasure with greater vigor than James Beard. Gay, bow-tied, effusive, charismatic, and possessed of a lavish appetite, Beard had the misfortune to live in an era at once bigoted, repressed, paranoid, abstemious, and uninterestingly dressed. Today he is best known for the awards dispensed by his eponymous foundation, which remain, 35 years after his death at the age of 81, the most prestigious in the American restaurant industry. But of the man himself, contemporary memory is fairly shallow: He exists mostly in outline, as the bald, long-dead bon vivant beaming out at America’s eaters from illustrations, portraits, and the obverse of the culinary medals that bear his name. Unlike his contemporary Julia Child, Beard did not benefit from a longstanding presence on TV screens, and he has not been portrayed in a feature film. The Beard name is a seal of culinary quality, but the story of his life remains enigmatic and somehow remote.