What Kind of Writing Wins a Beard Award?

James-Beard-Medallion-300x255What I like about The James Beard awards, called “the Oscars of food writing,” is that I can find most of the journalism award-winning pieces online.

I want to soak up their brilliance. I also know I will be a little envious. That’s okay. Reading them gives me ideas for my own writing.

These essays will make you laugh, amaze you, make you nod in recognition, make you outraged — all emotions generated by skilled writers (and their editors). They are worth my time, and yours.

Just so you know, judges can only judge the entries. We don’t go out and look for work that might win. So if you don’t enter, you can’t win. (I am a book judge and a [Read more…]

Who Won 2013 Beard Journalism Awards and Why

When the James Beard Foundation awards unfurled recently, I watched the live Twitter stream from home on the other coast in California, just to be part of the excitement. It’s fun to see who won, who lost, and read about the drama (mostly about chefs, because apparently writers aren’t that exciting).

Then I read most of the pieces that won, because I always like to read what judges think is the best writing out there (or at least, the best of what was submitted.)

If you have time, I suggest you do the same. In the old days, we’d have to buy many magazines. Now we can read most of the articles online and learn why they won. I put in the links below, not just to the stories, but sometimes to the writers so you can learn [Read more…]

Get Out Your Best Food Writing and Apply

You’ve thought about entering. You mean to apply. But somehow the deadline goes by and you haven’t sent in your best stuff.

This year will be different, because I’m giving you lots of notice. The deadline to send your best pieces of writing to The Best Food Writing anthology for 2013 is May 1, 2013. Your writing must have been published between June 1, 2012, and May 31, 2013. (If your piece will appear after May 1, email editor Holly Hughes, at best.food@perseusbooks.com to warn her it’s coming.)

So think about it. Sift through your work to see what stands out and what has relevance for a wide audience. Hughes considers book excerpts, articles and blog posts. She has published The Best Food Writing collection since [Read more…]

9 James Beard Award-Winning Stories, and Why They Won

By now you’ve seen the announcements for the Oscars of food writing, the James Beard Awards for books, broadcast and journalism.

But have you read the pieces that won over the judges? I thought not.

I tracked down a handful of feature stories and explain why this is food writing at its finest. Here’s what it takes to win an award of this caliber, with links to writers so you can investigate who won as well:

1. Cooking, Recipes, or Instruction: Anna Thomas, Eating Well, for “The Soup for Life”

Here’s a sensuous look at how Thomas concocted recipes for green soups for her most recent cookbook, Love Soup. Her writing is full of action verbs (“a bitter wind was swatting down the last damp leaves”), evocative writing (“onions, slowly sizzling in the skillet, turned the color of [Read more…]

Should @RuthBourdain Win a Beard Nomination?

I asked former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl this very question last week, after a talk she gave at Stanford University.

Turns out that the James Beard awards, the so-called “Oscars of food writing,” launched a new humor category and nominated an anonymous tweeter called Ruth Bourdain.

This fictional character’s rain of raunchy tweets mash up Ruth Reichl and bad boy Anthony Bourdain (That’s Bourdain’s face and Reichl’s hair in the photo), often satirizing Reichl’s lyrical tweets in Bourdain’s sardonic tone. She mimics his humor, shock value and swearing.

There’s been lots of hand-wringing in the press about this nomination, because RuBo is anonymous. Also because the category is for a journalism award. I mean, are tweets journalism?

Reichl said she “loved the idea” of a humorous food writing category, and that Ruth Bourdain “wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago,” because of Twitter. Both Reichl and Bourdain are rooting for her to win. Reichl said she suspects RuthBourdain is a man. She’s dying to see whether this [Read more…]

Joan Gussow Inspires a Whole Community of Food Magazines

Edible Communities founders Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian head a network of 70 magazines across North America, called the Edible Communities.

Ten years ago, partners Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian felt unfulfilled, even though their graphic design and marketing firm won many awards. Writing and designing annual reports, logos and producing other corporate communications wasn’t cutting it.

Outside of work, they gravitated towards organic, seasonal gardening and cooking. The two had a boatload of talent. Ryder has degrees in graphic design, journalism and psychology, and graduated from a professional chef school in Los Angeles. Topalian is an acclaimed photographer.

Their answer was to launch Edible Ojai (near Santa Barbara, CA) magazine in 2002. Today they spearhead a network of more than 70 Edible magazines across North America, dedicated to celebrating local food, farms, and seasonal, sustainable eating.

Last weekend, 60 of the publishers gathered in Santa Barbara for an [Read more…]

Beard's Prestigious Awards Go Platform Free

Last week the James Beard Foundation announced a change in its journalism awards: Anyone who writes a story in print or on the web will now be eligible for its journalism awards.

Before, most of it was restricted to print. Now, whether you blog, publish features on your own website, or write for a group website, you’re eligible. Even the award for the “Best Food Section of a General Interest Publication” includes the web.

Since the announcement, I’ve been mulling over the ramifications of this decision and arguing with myself:

The blogger and online writer in me thinks it’s great. Beard has entered the 21st Century and leveled the playing field. No longer do writers have to get published in a newspaper or magazine to be eligible. A quality story is a quality story, regardless of [Read more…]