James Beard didn’t reach icon status by playing it safe. From his culinary career to his personal life, Beard led a life that was authentic, bold, and in many ways, ahead of his time.
Here are three ways that Beard demonstrated how to pursue a life fully lived. To learn more about the legendary chef, tune in to the premiere of James Beard: America’s First Foodie, airing Friday, May 19 on PBS.
He Pioneered America’s Food Movement
In the early 20th century, the United States was still grappling with its nascent culinary identity. Beard was instrumental in making American food a national source of pride. From his popular cookbooks to his renowned cooking school, Beard never stopped evangelizing his love for wholesome food made from fresh local ingredients. His legacy continues in the James Beard Foundation, which celebrates, nurtures, and honors the nation’s culinary heritage.
For a taste of what made Beard’s approach to food so iconic, check out his recipe for chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.
He Paved the Way for TV Chefs
Prior to household names such as Emeril, Martha, and Julia, there was James. In 1946, he began hosting NBC’s “I Love to Eat,” the first television cooking show. He continued to appear on television in the 1950s, cementing his brand and creating a blueprint for chefs-turned-media-sensations to come.
He Lived as a Gay Man During a More Conservative Era
Beard was expelled from Reed College for homosexuality in 1922, but that didn’t stop him from living his life on his own terms. He chose not to shy away from the people and the life that he loved, even during a time in America when homosexuality was far more taboo. Beard proved to be a man as comfortable in the kitchen as he was in his skin.