Restaurants and chefs get a lot of love from the James Beard Foundation. After all, many — if not most — of us want to know where to go and what to eat when we’re out and about, regardless of the city.
But for folks who like to cook, the James Beard awards matter in their recognition of books and broadcasts that make a difference for those of us who choose to spend spare time in the kitchen. Or, in the case of culinary voyeurism, for those of us perched in front of the TV or mobile device, thinking about food, if not actually cooking.
(There are Beard journalism awards, too, but that recognition means more to journalists — and their parents — than it does to the casual cook or diner.)
When books and broadcast got the big hurrah in New York City last week, two Minnesotans came home with the sought-after medallions. Raghavan Iyer, a native of India, who has spent 31 years in our state as the author of soon-to-be six cookbooks (including “660 Curries”) and as a cooking instructor and restaurant consultant, won the prize for best instructional video webcast. “Indian Curries: The Basics & Beyond” is featured on craftsy.com.
Iyer, wearing his signature pashmina shawl, looked out from the podium over the crowd of 550 guests at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan and said, “Thank you for not making me the Indian Susan Lucci,” alluding to two earlier Beard nominations, for a book and magazine article. Then he said with a smile, “My day rate just went up.”
Filmmaker Jesse Roesler of Minneapolis received a Beard award for his documentary, “The Starfish Throwers,” which focused on three individuals and their efforts to feed the hungry. Allan Law of Minneapolis, a former schoolteacher, was one of those featured; he distributes sandwiches to the homeless. The compelling documentary is available on iTunes, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Roesler was in Denmark at the time of the awards, working on a new Web series called “The Taste of Place.” He is a partner and story director at Bolster, a Minneapolis agency focused on brand and story.
Page by page
And then there were the book winners, 14 categories in all (although in many ways we the readers are the real winners, as we dip into recipes, stories, history and more, at our leisure).
Deborah Madison’s volume “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” was inducted into the Cookbook Hall of Fame, a well-deserved recognition for one of the 11 books that make her a tour de force in the culinary world. She has won three other Beard book awards in the past, including for “Vegetable Literacy” and “Local Flavors,” and for “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” when it was first published in 1997.
“Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking,” by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, won two Beard awards, one in the International category and the other for Book of the Year. The title refers to the restaurant by the same name in Philadelphia. (Find an interview with the author here.)
Two of my favorites from 2016 were recognized as Beard-worthy. “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science,” by J. Kenji López-Alt, won in the General cookbook category. It’s a wowzer of a book, filled with recipes and 1,000 photos, plus answers to more questions than you could possibly ask. The Reference and Scholarship category went to “The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks,” by Toni Tipton-Martin, a remarkable volume that uses cookbooks to tell the story of race in the U.S.
This is just a taste of the winning volumes. Check out the complete list, as well as the winners of the book competition from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. It’s a grand day for kitchen libraries — as well as for cooks.
Lee Svitak Dean is the Star Tribune’s Taste editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at @StribTaste.