The Irrational Optimist — An Interview with James Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro
By Timothy Cooper
In 2006, Susan Ungaro, the former editor in chief of Family Circle Magazine, became president of the James Beard Foundation (JBF), a nationally renowned nonprofit foundation and culinary arts organization dedicated to celebrating, nurturing, and honoring chefs and luminaries in the culinary industry. Since beginning her tenure, Ms.Ungaro has been instrumental in helping the foundation thrive, tripling its annual revenue from $4 million to $12 million and erasing a previous deficit of over $1 million.
Five years ago, she launched the Taste America cross-country tour. Other forward-looking initiatives she’s established include the annual JBF Food Summit, the Leadership Awards, and the JBF Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, as well as structures to recognize women in the field, such as JBF’s Women in Culinary Leadership program and the Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership program.
Among other honors, Ms. Ungaro was named one of Adweek’s 30 Most Influential People in Food and one of Irish America’s Top 50 Power Women; she also received the Hope Award from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. She has appeared on Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay, Iron Chef America, Top Chef, the Today Show, Good Morning America, and many more.
Recently, we caught up with Ms. Ungaro at the James Beard Foundation’s West Village headquarters to discuss her career and her work with the nation’s most celebrated food organization.
Keep reading to get to know this culinary world leader.