Dumplings & Dynasties

James Beard Event-Dumplings & DynastiesA Eureka Moment: an idea for specialization can spring from anywhere. A while back, I saw a poster at the James Beard House announcing an event titled, “Dumplings and Dynasties.”


An entire career could be initiated from this concept. It could even become a kind of Alex Haley Roots, Joseph Campbell Power of the Myth or Ken Burns’s The Civil War PBS documentary series — with music and dance!

How fabulous that could be: Dumplings and Dynasties: The Origins of Everything Edible!

Imagine: a series of wedding ceremony traditions around the world with Edible Dumplings and Dynasties animated in living color!

Diplomatically Speaking–Food Matters

The Culinary Institute of America President, Dr. Tim Ryan, CMC wrote: “We believe that food matters. It is elemental to our existence and integral to nurturing relationships and building community. It is the one indispensable ingredient with which we celebrate life’s great moments.”

Diplomatic Culinary PartnershipThe Huffington Post reported: “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton believes in the power of food. Over more than three years as America’s top diplomat, she has increasingly used cuisine as a tool to bring people together.

The Secretary of State put it this way in a video address: “Food isn’t traditionally thought of as a diplomatic tool, but I think it’s the oldest diplomatic tool. Sharing a meal can help people transcend boundaries and build bridges in a way that nothing else can.”

Clinton enlisted top-rated chefs from across the nation to join an effort to forge cultural exchanges over the dining table worldwide….More than 80 chefs are being inducted into the first American Chef Corps. These food experts could help the State Department prepare meals for visiting dignitaries, travel to U.S. embassies abroad for educational programs with foreign audiences or host culinary experts from around the world in their U.S. kitchens.” The effort has come together with the guidance of the James Beard Foundation.

Among The First Diplomatic Culinary Partnership’s American Chef Corps inductees:

Victor Albisu
Nick Anderer
José Andrés
Michael Anthony
Dan Barber
Rick Bayless
John Besh
Peter Betz
Richard Blais
April Bloomfield
Jeffrey Buben
Terry Bryant
Peter Callahan
Floyd Cardoz
Michael Chiarello
Joe Cicala
Cris Comerford
Scott Conant
Scott Drewno
Enzo Fargione
Maziar Farivar
Chip Flanagan
Larry Forgione
Amanda Freitag
Hoss Fuentes
David Garcelon
Duff Goldman
Todd Gray
David Guas
Tariq Hanna
Rock Harper
Maria Hines
Ris Lacoste
Robert Irvine
Jean-Marie Lacroix
Mike Isabella
Mourad Lahlou
Jason Larkin
Chris Jakubiec
Chris James
Sam Kass
Robert Kinkead
Ian Knox
Jamie Leeds
Anthony Lombardo
Emily Luchetti
Tony Mantuano
Tony Maws
Spike Mendelsohn
Roland Mesnier
Mary Sue Milliken
Rick Moonen
Masaharu Morimoto
Wes Morton
Marc Murphy
Michel Nischan
Kaz Okochi
Guillermo Pernot
Naomi Pomeroy
Olivier Reginensi
Andrea Reusing
Frank Ruta
Matthew Ridgeway
Charlie Romano
Aaron Sanchez
Richard Sandoval
Marcus Samuelsson
Chris Santos
Kiesha Sellers
Walter Scheib
Barton Seaver
Art Smith
B. Smith
Holly Smith
Angelo Sosa
Kevin Sbraga
Susan Spicer
Curtis Stone
Vikram Sunderam
Ming Tsai
Bryan Voltaggio
Joanne Weir
Robert Weland
Cathy Whims
Alan Wong
Robert Wiedmaier
Bill Yosses
Alex Young
Eric Ziebold
Andrew Zimmerman

I for one hope the new Secretary of State John Kerry continues this program.





James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program Looking for a Few Good Scholars As Deadline Nears

james-beard-foundation-scholarship-programBaking and pastry and culinary arts students are like politicians: they are constantly looking for the next money infusion. Politicians hope to keep their seats. Culinary students hope to get their hands on funds that will enable them to stand on their own – and help to finance their studies.

Almost everyone needs a helping hand. Many students have already knocked on the firmly-closed doors of banks and met with unyielding loan officers. They may be planning to be extra nice to Mom  on Mother’s Day, or resting their hopes on Father’s Day that is already hovering on the  horizon. They may be counting on a grateful hug that will turn into a green bucks handshake.

Students may not be aware that right in their midst is the James Beard Foundation (JBF), which is actively looking for a few good scholars, upon whom to bestow a scholarship or a school tuition waiver. This year, more than $275,000 in scholarship money is immediately available. The funding is given in the names of culinary legends including Jean-Louis Palladin and Peter Kump and Patrick Clark and long-time James Beard friends like Clay Triplette (sponsored by Edna  Morris) and Mildred Amico.

Established in 1991, the JBF scholarship program is part of the JBF mission: “to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America’s culinary heritage and diversity in order to elevate the appreciation of our culinary excellence.” The scholarships are awarded to aspiring culinary professionals to further their education at a licensed or accredited culinary school.

The amount of each award or school tuition waiver, varies from $1,000 to $5,000.

In 2008 the JBF awarded a total of 80 scholarships based on the committee’s selections in culinary arts and pastry arts. The Foundation provided 53 cash scholarships totaling $164,900 via Scholarship America. And, 27 students received tuition waivers donated by schools and universities around the world valued at more than $101,000. The total amount of support given to students seeking to further their careers in the culinary arts amounted to more than $265,900.

The deadline for the 2009 JBF Scholarships is coming up quickly–May 15th to be exact! There is still time to fill out an application for the 10 Friends of James Beard Foundation scholarships and the many James Beard Foundation Schools Scholarships or to ask questions. But you must be quick-time is ticking down!

If you are a past recipient of a James Beard Foundation scholarship, will you tell your story of how you benefited?

Dining With James Beard: Check, Please!

James Beard House, NYC

Beard House, New York, NY

I’m happy to report that I will be giving a talk about FOOD JOBS at the Beard House (PDF) on April 22 at 12 noon. I do hope you will think about joining me for lunch and the discussion.

The Beard House brings back so many happy memories and of James Beard himself. But I must share one little story about a lunch with Jim at the grand La Grenouille.

At the time, I was broke. I’d spent close to a million dollars getting The Great American Cooking Schools series of cookbooks ready for publication. The money just kept gushing into a bottomless pit. When the accountant examined the books he spoke to me as one does to the recently bereaved.

I then got it into my head that all my problems would be solved, and my credibility established if only I could persuade “Jim” to write an introduction for the front page of every title I was publishing.

I had his telephone number but lacked the courage to dial it. I’d get as far as dialing the first four or five digits then quickly hang up.  Then it occurred to me that his secretary would answer, and I could ask her to ask him if he would have lunch with me.

So I called. “’HELLO,” he answered. And right away he accepted. The next day, while bragging of my success to a friend, she told me he wouldn’t show up unless I sent a limo to pick him up. So I did. How much more broke can you be than broke, I wondered? I would find out.

I arrived at La Grenouille first. “The epitome of ‘everlasting elegance’ is the way it is still described in the Zagat Guide. “Midtown Classic French is top-of-the line all the way, catering to a glamour money crowd (real jewelry) dazzling flowers and one of New York’s premier places to impress.”

In sails James Beard, resplendent in a vibrant black and white hounds tooth zoot suit enveloping his colossal body. I’d bet he weighed closer to 400 than 300 pounds. He was outstandingly noticeable. He looked around. Saw me. Beamed!

When the waiter approached, “Double Glenlivet,” he boomed as he tucked the large white damask linen napkin over his bow tie. Elbows on the table, he was primed and ready to go.

“A glass of Tio Pepe,” I murmured. I always order dry sherry when I find myself in elegant surroundings. Besides I knew exactly how much even a single Glenlivet cost and the knowledge filled me with a dreadful premonition of things yet to come.

“Cheers, m’dear,” he smiled as he knocked it back. “Cheers, Mr. Beard,” I whispered.

When the waiter reappeared with the leather-covered, red-tasseled menus, Mr. Beard waived him away with a tap to the rim of his glass with his stubby finger and another — double — quickly appeared. And quickly disappeared. He raised his eyebrow at me questioningly, tapping his glass again. “No more for me,” I hastened.

He accepted the wine list as he studied the menu. Venison it was to be —— with, let’s see, a ’54 Hermitage.  He leaned back.  The hind legs of his chair barked such an alarming warning that he hastily heeded and resumed an upright position.

Pity. I had momentarily rather hoped he might fall and hit his head. And die. And I wouldn’t then be responsible for the fast mounting bill.

The venerable bottle was presented with a low bow and decanted with reverential deference. Glasses large as hurricane lamps and thin as a sheet of ice were placed on the table. He swirled and sniffed and rolled the wine around in his mouth, puffing out his cheeks like Louis Armstrong at full throttle. His eyes rolled heavenward. He allowed the wine to trickle down his gullet. He declared it reminiscent of cloves and cinnamon and black truffles and its’ aged wonderfully, gracefully… “Yeah, right!,” thought I.

The word “expansive” failed to adequately describe his mood.  Boy was he happy. I have no memory of the conversation because I was too deeply preoccupied with a sighting of the clutch of waiters gathered together in the rear of the restaurant. I could well imagine they were licking their chops in anticipation of the gigantic tip that they could reasonably anticipate would soon be warming their pants pockets.

I had no appetite and barely managed to swallow a morsel of my cold  poached salmon. Fear was tightening its grip around my throat. Galloping panic increased my heartbeat. I was feeling sick. Horribly sick. What if I threw up?

What could I do?  It wasn’t a question of “if” there would be sufficient funds to cover the check that had already vastly exceeded my worst-case calculations. I had not a shred of doubt that my sorely-depleted credit card would be declined. And returned to me…

Would the news be conveyed in front of him or would I be discretely called away and confronted with the horrible truth? Was there a window in the ladies room from which I could dive onto the street and make a run for it? Could I fling back my chair and make a dash for the door?  Would he follow me? Did he know where I lived? Could I be arrested?

“Ah, splendid,” he beamed. He wasn’t speaking to me. It was the waiter arriving with the Grand Marnier soufflé.  Then, “Yes. Bring me an Armagnac,” he purred.  “And for you, my dear,” he inquired solicitously. With no small amount of irritation I’d noticed how he’d taken charge of things.

Those were the days when women rarely took men out for lunch, but if they did, the wine list was always handed to the gentleman, who also did the ordering for you because you were too frail to be expected to speak to the waiter yourself. “You go ahead,” I said, summoning a sneer of sarcasm that he appeared not to notice. “Make it two Armagnacs,” he said, addressing the waiting waiter.

An elegant gentleman in a dark suit appeared at his side. It was the restaurant owner, carrying  two enormous snifters of Armagnac on a sliver tray. “Ahem,” he said with a little attention-getting cough. “Mr. Beard,” he said, “We are so honored to have you and your lovely companion with us today. May I invite you to be our guests for lunch?”

Suddenly I grasped the idea that the estimable, revered, magnificent, generous  Mr. Beard had surely anticipated this remarkable turn of events. “Cheers, Jim,” I exulted, to  my beloved friend.

I could barely restrain myself from planting a kiss on his dear shiny intelligent forehead. Instead I snatched up my glass of Armagnac and scarfed down all the petits fours in a fine rendition of “Lucy” in the chocolate factory.

Lucy & Ethel in the chocolate factory, Courtesy of

Lucy & Ethel in the chocolate factory (Photo Courtesy of CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

“Sure” I grinned as I held out my glass for a refill…

Just then I remembered the purpose of the lunch. I asked my new pal Jim if he would write the introduction to the books?

He put his plump hand over mine.  And said with a smile. “No m’dear. I don’t do introductions.”