“James Beard: America’s First Foodie”
“The Dean of American Cookery”
James Beard is a cookbook author, journalist, television celebrity and teacher James Beard who changed the way we think about food. Here we visit food through Beard’s eyes and learn of his life via interviews, archival footage and animation.
Beard was a Portland native who loved and regaled the Pacific Northwest. At a time of “all things French,” Beard appreciated what America had to bring to the table and it was James Beard who introduced Julia Child to New York thus helping her gain her place as a culinary grande dame. It was James Beard who helped to pioneer and expand the food media industry into the billion-dollar business it is today.
Since Beard’s death in 1985, the Beard Foundation and House have continued his mission. The foundation is at the center of America’s culinary community and is dedicated to exploring the way food enriches our lives. It helps aspiring culinary students realize their dreams by supporting them on a path to success and the Beard name has become synonymous with culinary excellence and each year thousands gather in New York City for the James Beard Foundation Awards. However, while the name is well recognized, the details of Beard’s life have often been unknown.
Through interviews, memories of Beard are shared, as is his influence on the modern culinary scene. The film looks at the big themes of Beard’s life as well as the food. We learn of his relationship with his mother, his love of the market, his brave choice to be openly gay at a time when it was dangerous to do so and his devotion to flavor and friends. We also learn how the food world has evolved since his death. The film takes us to the places he loved including his childhood home of Portland, the restaurants of San Francisco that he frequented with his mother, great public markets like Pike Place Market in Seattle and of course his adopted final home, New York City. By bringing current footage together with archival footage, interviews and animations, the documentary captures the color, spirit and genius of James Beard.
Among those appearing in the film are James Beard Award Foundation President Susan Ungaro and Executive Vice President Mitchell Davis, James Beard Award winners, and noted chefs including Pepin, Waters and Daniel Boulud.
Beard was forced to keep his homosexuality a secret publicly although he was out to his close friends. He was able to come out publicly before his death in 1985. In his memoir, he wrote: “By the time I was seven, I knew that I was gay. I think it’s time to talk about that now.”