A New Category Is Coming To The James Beard Awards In 2023

During the 2020 shutdown, the world seemed to acknowledge how fantastic bread really is. If you spent any time on social media during that time, you couldn't be on there for more than a few minutes before coming across a video of someone making a beautiful sourdough loaf or a sumptuous focaccia. This trend was a bit novel, especially in the U.S., where consumers have a heightened awareness of the added carbs in bread. Still, during that time, comfort was essential, and bread can be pretty comforting. According to The Atlantic, so many people were turning to their kitchens to bake loaves at home that there were shortages of flour and yeast all over the U.S. during the spring of 2020. 

You might say that bread-making and baking, in general, had a bit of a glow-up during that time and it seems that the James Beard Foundation agrees. So much so that it recently announced that a new category has been added to its 2023 awards and those that love to bake are in luck.

Honoring talent for decades

According to PBS, the James Beard Foundation started recognizing talent in the culinary world in 1991 when they gave out their first awards (winners included Nancy Silverton, Wolfgang Puck, and Emeril Lagasse). The foundation itself was started in 1986 by Julia Child, Peter Kump, and other chefs who were friends and admirers of Beard during his lifetime. Their general goal was to help foster talent in the culinary world and build a place where those who loved to cook could learn, grow and excel. Since they were given in 1991, the James Beard Foundation Awards have become the Oscars of the culinary world (per PBS), and even being nominated is a huge deal.

While they have always had best baker and best pastry chef categories — which have now been combined into one category – having a category for best bakery is new. The unique part about this category is it's not just about the recipes and product that a bakery has been providing, but the service to their community.

Excellence in their craft

According to the James Beard Foundation Awards press release, the best bakery category will recognize a baker of bread, pastries, or desserts that showcases not just excellence in food but also in atmosphere, ambiance, hospitality, and overall business operations. The kicker is that eligible candidates must have a direct line of sales between their business and the public. However, they are not required to have a brick-and-mortar store to be eligible for the award category. The press release goes on to note that they hope to honor someone who has had a positive impact on their community overall.

The awards ceremony will be held in Chicago, Illinois from June 3-5, 2023, and the deadline for submitting entries is November 30, 2022. The foundation does require that candidates have been in business for the last three years, so those who found their passion for baking during 2020 will have to wait until next year's nominations. There is plenty of time to get out the flour and yeast and work.