The James Beard Foundation announced Paula Wolfert, multiple James Beard Award–winning author, as the 2018 Lifetime Achievement honoree.
Wolfert’s career in food began in the 1950s, when on the advice of her mother, the newly married Columbia graduate took up cooking classes. She learned from and eventually worked for Dione Lucas, the first woman to have a TV cooking show, in addition to working for James Beard, himself. In 1959 she moved to Tangiers, where her love of Mediterranean and Moroccan cooking began and would be translated into nine books during her career. Her first book, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, was published in 1973 when a tagine was foreign to the majority of Americans. With 1994’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Wolfert highlighted delicious recipes that represented the healthful diet of the Mediterranean, an early champion of the benefits to eating the Mediterranean way. This book earned her a James Beard Award, one of five she has received, including the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award in 1996 for a feature titled “My Old Moroccan Home” in Saveur, and the Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2008.
"I am so honored to receive the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award. This honor is especially meaningful to me because I knew Jim Beard well, and in fact, back in 1957, he gave me my first professional job in food,” says Wolfert. “I've spent most of my adult life exploring the cuisines of the Mediterranean, striving to find the best versions of great dishes of the region, then passing on the recipes and stories of Mediterranean women who cooked them in my various books. Over the years the James Beard Foundation has honored many of them. I view this latest honor as the keystone in the arch of my career."
Since 2013, Paula has devoted her time and efforts as an activist for Alzheimer’s disease. Diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, an early stage of Alzheimer’s, Paula ultimately made the decision to stop teaching and writing in recent years to devote herself to Alzheimer’s activism, speaking out about the disease and raising awareness on preventive measures.
The James Beard Foundation Awards Gala will be held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago May 7. During the event, which is open to the public, awards for the Restaurant and Chef and Restaurant Design categories will be handed out, along with special achievement awards Humanitarian of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, Design Icon, Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, and America’s Classics. A gala reception will immediately follow, featuring top chefs and beverage professionals from across the country.
On April 27, the James Beard Media Awards, an exclusive event honoring the nation's top cookbook authors, culinary broadcast producers and hosts, and food journalists, will take place at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers in New York City.
Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and furthers the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. Each award category has an individual committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program. All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes.
The 2018 James Beard Foundation Awards are proudly hosted by Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association and presented in association with Chicago O’Hare and Midway International Airports as well as the following partners: Premier Sponsors: All-Clad Metalcrafters, American Airlines, HMSHost, Illinois Office of Tourism, Lavazza, S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, TABASCO Sauce, Woodford Reserve Bourbon; Supporting Sponsors: Breville, Corporate Essentials, Hyatt, Robert Mondavi Winery, Skuna Bay Salmon, Taylor Precision Products, Valrhona, Windstar Cruises; Gala Reception Sponsors: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Ecolab, Front of the House, Kendall College; with additional support from: Chefwear, Emmi Roth, Loacker, and VerTerra Dinnerware.
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