New This Month

James Beard Was America's First Foodie

Watch the new PBS biopic that delves into the life of this culinary champion. 

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Photography by: Arthur Schatz/Getty Images

Chances are, if you’re a food lover, you either know who James Beard is or have heard of him. And whether Beard is a revered name in your household or simply reminds you of the culinary awards named for him, there's a new documentary to tell you everything (and beyond!) about this champion of American food.  

 

The Beard biopic, "America’s First Foodie: The Incredible Life of James Beard," is part of the film series “American Masters: Chefs Flight,” which features other iconic chefs -- all inspired by Beard at one point or another -- Jacques Pepin, Alice Waters, and Julia Child. It premiered at iPic and The Tuck Room in New York last month and airs on May 19 at 9 p.m. EST on PBS -- and it's a must watch!

 

“In the beginning, there was Beard,” said Julia Child, a legend herself and a close friend of Beard's. Long before words like “locally-farmed” and “sustainable food” were abuzz, and Portland became one of the many hip foodie cities, Beard’s hometown was just that, his hometown. It was where he first rooted himself in the familiarity and comfort of cooking, and where he returned to each summer to indulge in the flavors of Pacific Northwest, as well as where he first started teaching what would soon become some of the most sought-after cooking classes.

 

(MEET: Julia Child, who taught a country how to cook)

 

After a brief stint in theater, Beard moved to food and quickly became known as the “founding father of eating well.” He was America’s first TV chef, wrote 22 cookbooks, ran his own catering company, was a journalist, a teacher, and an eclectically passionate, lovable personality who graced many a boisterous cocktail party and kitchen with his presence. 

 

(MAKE: James Beard's Pureed Parsnips)

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Photography by: Courtesy of the Dan Wynn Estate and the James Beard foundation.

Moreover, when the dining scene was consumed by “all things French,” Beard set the standard for American cuisine. (He had a soft spot for strawberry shortcake.) He was also revered for the many barriers he broke: At a time when the food world was largely dismissed as a woman’s domain, Beard made it okay for men to put on their aprons and get cooking. He also helped gain recognition for the importance of food and cooking. And through it all, Beard remained true to himself, coming out during a period when it was against the law to do so.

 

(WATCH: The Kitchen Conundrum videos that won us a James Beard Award!)