Culinary Association Revokes Cookbook of the Year Award It Gave to Its Own CEO

The organization believes its process was impartial, but regrets the appearance of impropriety

The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) revoked its 2018 Cookbook of the Year and one other award after Twitter users pointed out a major conflict of interest. Although Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables has received praise from multiple outlets, its co-author Martha Holmberg also happens to be the CEO of IACP.

During a ceremony on February 25, Six Seasons was awarded both Cookbook of the Year and Best Cookbook in the General Category. Joshua McFadden, a respected chef in Portland, Oregon, who had enlisted Holmberg to help him produce the book, was not able to travel to New York for the ceremony, meaning that Holmberg accepted both awards from her own organization.

The appearance of impropriety was pointed out by Twitter user Subtle Cheddar, who tweeted: “Congratulations to the CEO of @IACPculinary who magically won cookbook of the year from the organization she leads everything is fine nothing is wrong no one panic. #IACP40.”

Twitter users, including Small Victories cookbook author Julia Turshen, chimed in with Subtle Cheddar agreeing that the award was a major conflict of interest.

The tweets attracted enough buzz that the IACP announced that it would institute a new policy regarding conflicts of interest and that both of Six Seasons’ awards would be removed.

“We’re extremely concerned by what we see now as an appearance of impropriety, and we are taking steps to address this. We regret the shadow it has cast on our awards, the book, and IACP itself. We are so sorry that we let this happen and apologize to all for our lapse in judgment. We are therefore removing the Best Cookbook Award in our General Category and Cookbook of the Year from the book. Please note that Artisan, the book’s publisher, is not at fault in any way in this situation; the book was submitted in good faith and according to our rules at the time.”

Holmberg, the award winner and CEO of IACP, spoke with The Washington Post regarding her seemingly unscrupulous win. “The board and everyone believes in the system and the process, that it could be completely impartial,” Holmberg told the news outlet. “But as we know, perception is just important as reality.”

The IACP has not made clear whether new winners will be selected for the rescinded awards, but they have made it abundantly clear that a new policy will be put in place to avoid future conflicts of interest.

“We will be creating a new policy about ineligibility of staff and board,” the IACP’s statement continued. “We don’t have the language for that policy yet but will share it when we do. We also plan to create an advisory council made up of industry leaders. We’ll publish the names of the council and the findings along with full policy language.”