There are definitely some great perks to being on Top Chef, and there’s nothing sweeter than winning a coveted prize after an elimination challenge. On this week’s episode, one lucky Cheftestant found out that they will get the chance to showcase their featured dish, and build a menu around it at the James Beard House. The James Beard Foundation and its property are responsible for catapulting the careers of some powerhouse chefs who shape the industry, both past and present. Being featured at the house is definitely a big deal.
Though which dish wowed the judges enough to have this honor? Watch this week’s episode now to find out!
Before the chef gets there, here are five things you might not have known about the foundation and its Greenwich Village-based walkup.
1. It Was Actually a Home
That's right! James Beard, the house's namesake, actually lived in this four-story building. Beard was a man of many talents, from columnist to TV personality, he has over 20 published cookbooks. He would strive to highlight the importance around local fare and would host cooking workshops across the country, tirelessly travelling to instill the values that cooking is important and should be a mainstream concept. Today, the home is now a converted space for guests to enjoy all things fine dining and for chefs to honor his legacy by crafting culinary creations right on site.
2. Guests See the Action Upfront
In keeping with Beard's legacy that anyone can cook, the James Beard House was remodeled to have guests first enter through the kitchen. This way, they can have a special connection with the food that's to be eaten and with the chefs who are hard at work. This is a rebuke to 'can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,' the house actually encourages it. Guests will then move on to the reception area, garden space and dining room on the fourth floor where they will receive a culinary experience like no other.
3. The Awards Came Later
The home was opened in 1986, a year after James Beard died, launched from the efforts of former friends and colleagues, but the awards, or the ‘Oscars of Food,’ weren’t established until four years later. The awards honor the finest chefs, restaurants, wine professionals, journalists, cookbook authors, restaurant designers and other food professionals in the United States, and since then, culinary masters such as Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck and Top Chef’s own Tom Colicchio have been recognized.
4. A Space for Showcase
Peter Kump, who on advice from Julia Child, was the one to establish the James Beard House. Kump's intentions were to create a space where chefs could perform. The idea fully launched in 1987 after Wolfgang Puck came to cook in the house to raise money for its operations. Kump then expanded this concept around a reoccurring, monthly dinner engagement. Today, the foundation has expanded its event's page to include about 250 activities annually at the NYC location. Though the events are not just limited to dinner, and have expanded to include cookbook talks, known as 'Beard on Books,' national celebrity chef tours, and also galas.
5. Not Just for Adults
The events at James Beard House can seem very adult-centric, with the cocktails flowing, but the foundation hasn't forgotten about the kids. Since 2012, its been throwing a NYC Kids Food Festival to highlight the importance of eating right and making smart choices. The springtime festival combines games, cooking workshops and kids' performers to ensure the next generation is armed with cooking expertise.