“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” - James Beard
James Beard was a food pioneer. He was the host of television’s first food program in 1946, is credited to have started the gastronomy movement in America, and was a supporter of sourcing local products and markets years before it was mainstream. Largely self-taught, Beard took his passion for food and ran with it. He was a chef, an author, a pioneer, a consultant, a restaurant owner, a teacher, and a friend to many chefs and restaurateurs. After his death in 1985, Julia Child and Beard's closest friends and colleagues started the James Beard Foundation to honor his legacy, and create a place where food lovers could convene. Since then, the Foundation has grown nationally; supporting the culinary arts, providing a meeting place for chefs around the country, raising money for scholarships, and more.
In 1990, the James Beard Foundation Award was established and is now considered the highest honor for anyone in the culinary field. The award recognizes culinary professionals for “excellence and achievement in their fields” by emphasizing “the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor America's diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.” From chefs and authors to journalists and bloggers, food aficionado’s strive to be among the elite who make the cut.
Photo credit: seacreatures.com
Renee Erickson Wins Best Chef: Northwest
Among the winners of this year’s Beard award was Seattle’s own Renee Erickson; chef and owner of The Whale Wins, and author of A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories. Erickson accepted the coveted title of Best Chef: Northwest, after being a finalist in 2014 and 2015.
Like the foundation’s namesake, Erickson is a pioneer in the Northwest food scene. She started her first restaurant, Boat Street Cafe, in her twenties and has since opened The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Whale Wins, The Barnacle, Bateau, Bar Melusine, and General Porpoise (check out the Sea Creatures restaurants here). Her philosophy is simple; source local Pacific Northwest ingredients and cook seasonally, but it is her passion, drive and talent in the kitchen that sets her apart from the rest.
Embodying what it means to be a James Beard winner, Erickson emphasizes "the importance of simple, wholesome food, good cooking, and good eating by educating, mentoring, supporting, and caring for the people who prepare and enjoy it." We can't wait to see what she does next.
Congratulations, Renee Erickson!