Tastemakers from across the country joined James Beard Foundation (JBF) CEO Clare Reichenbach last night at the James Beard House to kick off the Foundation’s 2018 Taste America. Spanning six weeks from September 28 to November 17, the sixth annual traveling series will bring unique dining and educational programs to ten culinary destinations across the country.
Taste America Honorary All-Star and James Beard Award-winning chef and philanthropist Traci Des Jardins crafted the kickoff’s menu alongside JBF Outstanding Bakers Belinda Leong and Michel Suas. Among the 2018 Taste America chefs in attendance were chefs Karen Akunowicz, Charleen Badman, David Blessing, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Kraskinski, Val Cantu, Andrew Carmellini, Abe Conlon, Nick Elmi, Michael Fojtasek, Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson, and Annie Pettry.
“We are beyond delighted to ring in this year’s Taste America with Traci as our Honorary All-Star and celebrate alongside the dynamic cast of culinary greats that we have in attendance here tonight,” says Reichenbach. “A tour de force in and out of the kitchen, Traci Des Jardins merges her culinary brilliance with civic-minded action to beget change in an industry that hungers for it. In addition to serving on the Foundation’s Women’s Leadership Program Advisory Board, she acts as culinary advisor to Impossible Foods – creator of the Impossible Burger – and sits on the board of her local non-profit La Cocina, which supports low income food entrepreneurs, placing a special emphasis on women and people of color.”
Throughout the evening, guests mingled with the 2018 Taste America chefs and explored in more depth the sustainability and food waste initiatives highlighted by this year’s Taste America program, which will directly contribute to the Foundation’s Scholarship programs. Special activations at the kickoff included a raffle by Dinova and sampling stations from Woodford Reserve, El Tesoro, Robert Mondavi, Gloria Ferrer, and Ornua Foods North America.
"I am honored to be a part of the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America again this year. It is such a wonderful lineup of talented chefs and I love that they have the opportunity to bring their cuisines to different markets all around the country,” adds 2018 Taste America Honorary All-Star Traci Des Jardins. “The James Beard Foundation's commitment to sustainability and food waste initiatives so closely aligns with my own beliefs. I am excited to partner with Feeding America to ensure that we provide food for those in need and that little goes to waste."
The lineup of JBF’s 2018 Taste America chefs and cities are:
New Orleans: Visiting All-Star Emily Luchetti
Phoenix: Visiting All-Star Maneet Chauhan; Local All-Star Charleen Badman
Los Angeles: Visiting All-Star Andrew Carmellin; Local All-Star Ludo Lefebvre
Louisville, KY: Visiting All-Star Steven Satterfield; Local All-Star Annie Pettry
Seattle: Visiting All-Stars Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski; Local All-Star Edouardo Jordan
Chicago: Visiting All-Star Karen Akunowicz; Local All-Star Sarah Grueneberg
San Francisco: Visiting All-Star Abe Conlon; Local All-Star Val Cantu
Boston: Visiting All-Star Renee Erickson; Local All-Star Tony Maws
Philadelphia: Visiting All-Star Jeremiah Langhorne; Local All-Star Nick Elmi
Austin: Visiting All-Star Sara Kramer & Sarah Hymanson; Local All-Star Michael Fojtasek
New Orleans is celebrating its tricentennial in 2018 and so its dinner will take on a different format with four simultaneous Taste America dinners occurring in iconic restaurants, all on the same night, as the culinary program launches on Friday, September 28. Taste America Visiting All-Star and JBF Board Chair Emeritus Emily Luchetti will create a universal dessert to cap off each dinner.
New in 2018, Taste America is joining forces with Feeding America to reduce food waste and donate otherwise viable food and meals leftover from the weekends’ events to those in need. Logistics will be coordinated with local food waste organizations in each of the ten Taste America cities.
The James Beard Foundation’s 2018 Taste America is made possible by the generosity of our sponsors and partners, including premier sponsors Deloitte, El Tesoro Tequila, and Woodford Reserve; supporting sponsors Dinova, Gloria Ferrer, Ornua Foods North America, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Windstar Cruises; patron sponsor Choose Chicago; retail partner Sur La Table; and founding partner Bowen & Company. Additional support for Taste America 2018 has been provided by Chefwear and VerTerra Dinnerware.