Recently I wrote about a misstep when the head of an organization won the organization’s own food writing contest. If you haven’t read it, see IACP Strips Winner of Cookbook of the Year Award After Outcry.
Since then, Adam Salamone, chair of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), said IACP had no policy that excludes staff or board members from submitting to awards. He also said the board will create a new policy about ineligibility of staff and board.
The new winners of the IACP Cookbook of the Year and the new General category winner are announced here.
That event made me wonder how three other industry associations decide who can enter food writing contests. So I did a little investigating. I emailed the James Beard Foundation (JBF)’s book committee chair and the head of the MFK Fisher Awards for Les Dames Escoffier International (LDEI) to inquire about policies for entering their food writing contests. The third, the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ), sent a letter and survey to its members, as explained below.
So, if you:
- Are a member of any of these organizations
- Attend awards ceremonies
- Enter awards and like the idea of winning
- Enjoy judging awards…
This issue concerns you. Some people have been quite outspoken. My Facebook page was hopping after IACP’s lapse in judgement, with more than 100 comments. People are still emailing me about it too.
Just for the record, “entering” a book award doesn’t necessarily mean that you enter the book yourself. Usually, your publisher enters a book on your behalf. You may not even know it’s happened unless you ask, or unless your book becomes a finalist.
Here’s how three industry associations (other than IACP) decide who can enter a food writing contest:
A. The James Beard Award Foundation has lots of rules and policies in place.
The JBF appears to have the most thought-through rules and policies when it comes to who can enter its annual writing awards.
Andrea Weigl, committee chair of the JBF’s book awards for the last seven years, explained the association’s policies in an email:
“Each JBF Awards committee has a set of category specific bylaws. On the book committee, several members are food writers and cookbook authors. Our policy is that they have to step off the book committee for the year their book is eligible for the contest. The only way to stay on is to have a letter from the publisher saying they will not submit the committee member’s book for an award.
That philosophy extends to all the other contest committees and the foundation itself. Committee members are not eligible for the awards the committee oversees. However, they can enter the other contests. People on the restaurant committee can enter journalism awards. And journalists on the journalism committee can enter book and broadcast awards.
When it comes to the judges, the book committee’s policy is that judges cannot participate that year if they authored or contributed substantially to a book that is eligible for the contest. Other committees handle it differently; journalism judges can enter the contest but obviously do not judge the categories that they enter.
Foundation staff and their immediate family members are ineligible for any JBF awards.”
B. The Association of Food Journalists says paid staff cannot enter its writing awards. Now it wonders about volunteers.
After the mishap at IACP, the AFJ circulated a letter from the executive committee of the board asking its members to complete a one question survey. The letter stated that its annual awards contest is never open to paid staff members. It expressed concern that “barring officers, directors and chairs from entering might be a hardship for members who volunteer their time to support and run the organization.”
Members were asked to choose one of these options:
- The executive board and competition chair and committee members SHOULD continue to be eligible for the awards competition as they have been in the past.
- The chair and members of the awards committee SHOULD NOT be eligible for the awards competition.
- Members of the executive board and the chair and members of the awards committee SHOULD NOT be eligible for the awards competition.
It is a dilemma to bar the judges, since they are probably working writers who could win awards themselves. But Beard does it.
C. Les Dames D’Escoffier International (LDEI) says the board, awards chair and judges are not eligible to enter a writing contest.
Each year the LDEI hosts The MFK Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing. (Deadline is March 31. Enter here. And I was a recent grand prize winner.) I emailed awards chair CiCi Williamson to ask about policies.
She said, “We have always been on ethical ground. When I wrote the rules for our contest in 2006, I included that neither the awards chair (me) nor the LDEI Board is eligible to enter.”
I asked if volunteer judges were eligible to enter. She replied, “By our rules, none of our judges can be a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International. They vary slightly from year to year but have never entered the contest. Two of the ten 2017 judges were men and they can’t enter our women’s writing contest anyway!”
So if you were wondering how organizations other than IACP decide who can enter its food writing awards, their approaches are still evolving, in some cases. In light of its lapse in judgement, IACP will also change its policy about who can enter.
Incidentally, there is no member organization for the annual The Art of Eating Prize. Their structure is quite different.
Kathleen Purvis says
One thing I would point out, as president of the Association of Food Journalists: While it is correct that we are considering the issue as it relates to our own contest, it isn’t exactly the same as IACP or the James Beard book competition. AFJ is a journalism organization, and our contest is for journalism, not for books. Our current rules, which are posted at http://www.afjonline.com, are in line with the rules for the Society of Professional Journalists, which does allow its officers to enter its contest. Like SPJ, we have a paid executive director who handles entries, judges and results. Members, including those who volunteer in elected roles, have no contact with judges and no access to contest results until the winners are announced.
True, Kathleen, and interesting that you used the SPJ as a model. Members have no contact with judges unless they actually volunteer as judges, which is permissible, right?
Hanna Raskin says
Dianne, AFJ doesn’t solicit volunteer judges. My understanding is the awards committee recruits qualified candidates, some of whom may hold memberships in AFJ (Hazy on this point because I’ve never been asked to judge.) But we follow the same rule as JBF’s journalism division does: It’s fine to both judge and enter the contest, so long as the categories don’t overlap.
Got it. Thank you for this clarification, Hanna.
Elizabeth Minchilli says
FYI: They have stripped the two awards from Six Seasons and now given them to other books. Best General Cookbook: Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark. And Cookbook of the Year: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat.
Thank you for this news!
The announcement says “Clark’s Dinner is the highest scoring book in the General category based on a numerical system used through two rounds of judging.” So why didn’t it win in the first place? This looks bad. https://www.iacp.com/news/updated-2018-iacp-cookbook-awards/