What is the James Beard House?
The James Beard House, located on 12th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, was once the longtime home of legendary gastronome James Beard. Today it’s 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.
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. After he 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, and to this day it still hosts great chefs multiple nights weekly.
Guests enter the townhouse through the garden floor, and after checking in they’re led through the kitchen (where they have an opportunity to meet the chef and watch their team in action) before entering a glassed-in atrium where cocktail hour is held. When the weather is nice, guests can also enjoy an outdoor garden. After cocktail hour, guests head upstairs to the former library, which is now the main dining room, where they’re seated in groups at large round tables for dinner. The remaining floors are home to the organization’s offices.
The James Beard house is an unassuming townhouse, but it’s nothing short of legendary when it comes to the culinary world.