Vegan Chefs Now Joining The James Beard Foundation

The James Beard Foundation Vegan Chefs

The James Beard Foundation is assisting in the emergence of a new generation of chefs by announcing this week that it would add two vegan cooks to its Legacy Network, a mentor-mentee initiative created to link seasoned veterans of the foodservice business with the up-and-coming industry. Sadhana Raj and Melissa Guzman, two vegan cooks, have been invited by the James Beard Foundation to enroll in the 2022–2023 class.

In September of last year, the James Beard Foundation and the bourbon company Woodford Reserve launched the Legacy Network. The educational initiative intends to support the professional advancement of Native Americans and Black Americans working in the food business. Underserved communities can get information and tools through the Legacy Network. To close historical resource and community gaps, the foundation names a number of advisors and advisees.

“Legacy was developed as a response to calls for peer-to-peer networks and career support for emerging BIPOC leaders in our community… This program is part of our continued commitment towards a more sustainable and equitable industry,” stated Vice President of Community at the James Beard Foundation Colleen Vincent.

Raj will become a mentor for the classes of 2022 through 2023 in the Legacy Network. The chef established the bakery and eatery 24 Carrots in Phoenix. The vegan restaurant closed its doors in December 2021, but Raj hopes to pass along her 13 years of experience to more recent chefs.

Guzman hopes that by joining the class of advisees, he would more effectively motivate customers to eat more plant-based foods. The Caribe Vegan, Guzman’s Miami-based food truck, delivers traditional Latin dishes with a Latin flair, like quinoa and beans cooked in the Spanish style with vegan fish and plantains, or fried Jamaican dumplings filled with oxtail-like “meat.” The chef uses plant-based adaptations of her family’s recipes in an effort to transform consumers’ perceptions of vegan food and island cuisine.

Guzman’s plant-based cuisine has previously been acknowledged by the James Beard Foundation, which last year granted The Caribe Vegan the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans Grant. The funding is granted to support enterprises that are Black or Indigenous owned.

“Support from my community means the world to me… This has been hard, you know, so to see that so many people are rooting for me [and] just wanting to see me win, it means the world to know that me continuing to grow and me continuing to push is helping other people,” Guzman said after receiving the James Beard grant in 2021.

Plant-Based recognition from the James Beard Awards

However, until recently, the James Beard Foundation did not understand the promise of plant-based cooking. The James Beard Foundation has consistently rewarded the most inventive, creative chefs and restaurants. The foundation is now integrating plant-based cooking and its founders into the established culinary arts. The organization has honored or recognized a number of chefs, food writers, authors, and content producers in the plant-based food industry in recent years.

Two vegan cooks were among the James Beard Media Award winners in June. The BlackForager Joanne Lee Molinaro, also known as The Korean Vegan Alexis Nikole Nelson, was acknowledged by the charity. In addition, Molinaro’s work, The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma’s Kitchen, won the Book Award for Vegetable-Focused Cooking.

Michelin Star plant-based cooking

The Michelin judges hardly ever gave plant-based food a second thought prior to last year. However, 81 vegan and vegetarian restaurants received Michelin Stars in 2021 thanks to the Michelin jury. The startling increase shows how plant-based food is finally being seen on a par with more traditional cuisines in the world of fine dining. Milan’s Joia, Berlin’s Cookies Cream, Beijing’s King’s Joy, Los Angeles’ Le Comptoir, and New York’s Eleven Madison Park are among the recipients of plant-based products.

Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White, both holders of Michelin stars, have acknowledged the potential of plant-based cuisine. The menus of both chefs’ restaurants have even begun to feature plant-based dishes, including a 3-D printed steak at two of White’s eateries. Ramsay even startled spectators last July by declaring that he “actually love[s] vegan food!”

Source: “The James Beard Foundation Invites Vegan Chefs Into Its Program” by The Beet

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