Q & A with Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation
Susan Ungaro is the president of the James Beard Foundation. Credit: Arnold Adler Photgraphy.
This years James Beard Awards will celebrate Women in Food. We spoke to Susan Ungaro about this years event James Beard Awards.
What does it mean that James Beard will focus on "Women in Food?
After the traditional awards at Lincoln Center, well have a gala reception at Avery Fisher Hall, and the theme is women in food. Lidia Bastianich is the gala chair. Joyce Goldstein and Emily Luchetti (both past Beard Award winners) helped put together a celebration of over 20 female chefs to do tastings. Were going to feature a female mixologist and a wine tasting will be led by Andrea Immer Robinson.
Why have the focus now?
We thought it was time to show that the foundation has awarded over 270 Beard honors to women that includes chefs and restaurateurs, cookbook authors and more. Sixty three women have been nominated this year; some, such as Ruth Reichl, have multiple nominations.
Women have achieved a lot both in the back of house and kitchen and front of house.
Also, James Beard was a mentor to Alice Waters, Julia Child and Barbara Kafka. Julia Child was one of the first to suggest we have a foundation in his name. This summer is the debut of the new movie about Julia Child that was another inspirational point. Stanley Tucci, whos in the movie, will be a host and were going to show a trailer.
Is the restaurant business really male-dominated?
I think the fact that were honoring women in food, shows that its not male dominated. Its just populated more by men.
Women have made great strides in restaurants, on-air and also in journalism. Just look at the Food Network, so many of the new, up and coming chefs are women.
How do you hope to bring women into the spotlight?
People joke that a womans place is in the kitchen. But we believe a womans place is running a kitchen. I just want to focus on the fact that women are achieving a lot of great things. This is a celebration, its not a defense.
How is it to be a woman leading a flagship-organization in a male-dominated field?
You know, I never even thought of myself as first female president until right now. Never even crossed my mind. That has to tell you something.