The James Beard Foundation announced the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 awards after announced that it will announce the award winners in a virtual ceremony last month.
Deciding to announce the award winners with a virtual ceremony instead of the usual gala in Chicago, the James Beard Foundation announced that it will not announce 2020 winners, which would have been chosen from the already-announced list of chef and restaurant awards finalists. In a press release, the Foundation explained its reasoning:
“The choice comes as restaurants continue to suffer the grave negative effects of COVID-19, and as substantial and sustained upheaval in the community has created an environment in which the Foundation believes the assignment of Awards will do little to further the industry in its current uphill battle. The Awards’ usual positive impact on restaurants and chefs’ businesses will likely not be fully realized due to the current state of the industry, with many restaurants closed permanently or temporarily or operating at minimal capacity.”
There will still be an online event on September 25, but rather than announcing new winners, it will honor the winners in categories that were announced previously, including the America’s Classics, Lifetime Achievement, Humanitarian of the Year, Design Icon, and Leadership Awards. The upcoming broadcast will also address the struggles the industry has faced over the past five months and ways to build a more equitable restaurant industry going forward.
In another huge announcement, the Foundation will also forgo its 2021 awards, which would have recognized the work of restaurants and chefs in 2020. Such a ceremony “would be unfair and misguided, taking into account the unprecedented hardships which restaurants and potential nominees faced this year,” the press release reads. Instead, a May 2021 event, tentatively planned for an in-person ceremony in Chicago, will celebrate members of the restaurant community who have emerged as leaders and positively impacted their communities during the coronavirus crisis.