Lunch at the James Beard House

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Holly Tarson is a writer living in upstate New York.  She was a longtime producer of Good Food.

IMG_2680James Beard was to food what Jack Lalane was to fitness.  Even foodies unfamiliar with his history know that the James Beard Award bestows great culinary prestige on its recipients.   But as a man once called “the Dean of American Cookery” by the New York Times, James Beard transformed American cooking one cookbook and television show at a time.

I had the privilege of lunching at James Beard’s home.  It’s tucked neatly in an unassuming block of Greenwich village in New York City. The only clue to the  illustrious residence behind the brick façade was a small brass plaque confirming that this was, in fact, the James Beard House.

IMG_2685It’s fitting that the man who made cooking accessible to home chefs lived somewhere so simply accessible. Walking in, I didn’t feel the awe I expected.  I felt the warmth of a welcoming home.  And it makes sense that the kitchen was at the center of it all, bustling with caterers making lunch, and guests making their way from the front door to the Greenhouse Gallery in the back and the study upstairs.

Tom Colicchio (who wrote the foreword to the newly re-released Beard book, American Cookery) stopped by to join us as we toasted James Beard and the work of the Beard Foundation.  Lunching in the study, under a huge portrait of the man whose prolific contributions to American Cuisine were created in that very room, I could almost feel Beard’s presence still there in the glazed carrots on the plate and the books on the shelves.

Susan Ungaro is the President of the James Beard Foundation.  To learn more about James Beard and the Foundation bearing his name, tune in to her upcoming interview with Evan Kleiman on “Good Food.”