Remember how Chicago restaurateurs, food writers and other culinary luminaries got a plethora of James Beard nominations back in March? Well, just in time for the awards on Monday, the New York Times reminded us that all is not candy and liquor over at the Foundation (was it clear we meant that the situation is problematic? Not every food metaphor works, unfortunately). Several years of mismanagement, including the embezzlement of funds, lack of scholarship support and general mission shift led the James Beard Foundation near the brink of dissolution, or at least losing the support of its main financial contributors. As it is, they are paying back their loans at a worse-than-subprime 11% interest rate. Not an Enron, exactly, but still, too close to the financial picture of your average restaurant for comfort. We may wish to believe that our anchoring institutions, like James Beard, operate in a continuum beyond the reach of poor ethics and fiscal irresponsibility, but unfortunately, anything that humans are in charge of runs the risk of impropriety. But the show will go on, and awards will be handed out on May 7th. We will report the results (as will everyone else), but in the meantime, best of luck to the 15 Chicagoland nominees, and don’t worry: the organization is shaping up, and the award will have value and relevance for some time to come.
Questions Linger for Beard Foundation [NYTimes]
[Photo: James Beard can do no wrong]