Hiding in plain sight on a cozy block in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, the James Beard House is the headquarters of the James Beard Foundation, which is perhaps best known for bestowing the annual James Beard Awards on the best chefs and restaurants in the country. But the non-profit actually offers “a variety of events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain, and foster a deeper understanding of our culinary culture,” according to their website, “with educational initiatives, food industry awards, an annual national food conference, Leadership Awards program, culinary scholarships, and publications,” and their base of operations is the famed James Beard House. Here are five things you may not have known about this legendary building.
James Beard Actually Lived There
The organization’s namesake, James Beard, hosted the very first television food program (in 1946), was an early champion of local products and markets, wrote several cookbooks, and nurtured a generation of American chefs and cookbook authors. Today, the James Beard House hosts near-nightly events and dinners, and it’s where he actually lived.
Buying the House was Julia Child’s Idea
After Beard passed away in 1986, Peter Kump, a former student of Beard and the founder of the Institute of Culinary Education, began the James Beard Foundation. At the suggestion of Julia Child, Kump purchased the brownstone as a gathering place where the public and press could experience meals cooked by some of the country’s leading chefs.
Some Amazing Chefs Have Cooked There
While it may have a reputation as a showcase for up-and-coming chefs, some incredibly notable chefs have cooked in the restaurant’s kitchen, including Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, Jacques Pepin, Charlie Trotter, and Nobu Matsuhisa.
There are Mirrors in Odd Places
The restroom in the dining room (which was converted from the original library) is noted for its wall-to-wall mirrors. Also, there’s a mirror on the ceiling of the loft dining area, which was Beard’s bedroom.
All Guests Walk Through the Kitchen
After guests enter the building, they need to walk right through the kitchen in order to reach the cocktail area and backyard before heading upstairs to dinner. This is a great way for guests to connect with their meal, and also have a chance to see the chef(s) in action.