Two years ago, for the first time, The Daily Meal singled out 10 key figures from the food world, both American and foreign-born, living and dead, to enshrine in our Hall of Fame. Our intention is to add to this august body every year, honoring an ever-wider circle of men and women who have influenced the way we eat and think about food.
There are hundreds of halls (and walls and walks) of fame around the world, honoring luminaries from almost any field imaginable. The Astronaut Hall of Fame, the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame, the Insurance Hall of Fame, the Polka Hall of Fame… the list goes on and on. Oh, and of course the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted its first members — including James Brown, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and Jerry Lee Lewis — in January of 1986.
Ours is not the only Hall of Fame devoted to culinary luminaries. There are regional versions in Arizona, Colorado, and the Chicago area, among other places. Our sister publication the Orlando Sentinel has its own Culinary Hall of Fame. New York's Institute of Culinary Education honors celebrated graduates, and the American Academy of Chefs does the same for retired member chefs. Then there's something called the Culinary Hall of Fame ("Honoring ALL Things Culinary"), run by Colorado-based chef Fred Roosli, which honors a miscellaneous selection of chefs (Paul Bocuse, Cat Cora), culinary schools, TV shows, restaurants, internet sites, charitable organizations, and even a few recipes (layered eggplants with tomato, scallops, and seafood vinaigrette; roasted beef tenderloin with yam fries and ponzu sauce).
What had not previously existed, as far as we could tell, was a genuine Hall of Fame for the most influential chefs and other food world figures, living or dead — one based on genuine accomplishments and lasting significance rather than on ephemeral "celebrity" — a Hall of Fame for the Elvis Presleys and Ray Charleses of gastronomy, not the (no offense) Ricky Nelsons and the R. Kellys. That's what The Daily Meal Hall of Fame endeavors to be.
Our aim was to identify people both living and dead — chefs, restaurateurs, cookbook writers and authors, food producers, or anyone else in any aspect of the food trade — who have been of overriding importance to the development of cuisine and/or our experience of what we cook and eat.
To do this, we reached out to selected members of The Daily Meal Council and asked them to nominate those men and women they thought were most deserving of this recognition.The nominees this year, as in years past, ranged from the familiar to the less so. They were American, French, Italian, English, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese; chefs, restaurateurs, writers, farmers, advocates, inventors, and businessmen; their birth years spanned roughly 500 years, from 1500 to 1970.
Now installed in our Hall of Fame are the following 20 men and women, listed in alphabetical order: Ferran Adrià, James Beard, Paul Bocuse, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Marie-Antoine Carême, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, Elizabeth David, Auguste Escoffier, M.F.K. Fisher, Frédy Girardet, Michel Guérard, Marcella Hazan, Thomas Jefferson, Diana Kennedy, Michael Pollan, Fernand Point, Irma S. Rombauer, André Soltner, and Alice Waters.
The nominees this year, as in years past, ranged from the familiar (Anthony Bourdain, Joël Robuchon, Martha Stewart) to the less so (sixteenth-century Italian chef Bartolomeo Scappi, Sriracha mogul David Tran, heirloom bean farmer Steve Sando). They were American, French, Italian, English, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese; chefs, restaurateurs, writers, farmers, advocates, inventors, and businessmen; their birth years spanned roughly 500 years, from 1500 to 1970.
When the votes were tallied, our ten inductees for this year included a pioneer of frozen food, a legendarily snobbish restaurant owner, a pioneering compiler of American recipes, and a nonagenarian, Chinese-born legend.
Today, we begin announcing this year's inductees into Daily Meal Hall of Fame. One is featured here; the others will appear each weekday for nine more days. Next year, we'll induct 10 more.