The James Beard Foundation seeks to continue James Beard’s legacy by celebrating American chefs and educating the food community on sustainable practices.
In the culinary world, the name James Beard evokes images of the famed American chef teaching classes out of his townhouse in the West Village of New York, or writing cookbooks that brought American cuisine to the forefront of the gastronomy scene. When he passed away 30 years ago, his townhouse was turned into “The James Beard House” by friends, and later, the James Beard Foundation. The organization’s core mission remains intact: to celebrate, nurture, and honor culinary leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.
Sarah Drew works as an Impact Programs Manager at the James Beard Foundation, focusing on sustainability and eco-friendly supply chains. One program, Smart Catch, focuses on sustainably harvesting seafood–the team gathers data from their community of chefs, assessing and educating them on whether the items in their kitchen are being fairly sourced.
The Smart Catch program helps determine whether food items are green (best choice in terms of sustainability), yellow (a good alternative but with some concerns) or red. A red item is one that’s been overfished or caught in ways that are harmful to the environment.
If many chefs are using a product that is being harmfully sourced, the foundation can host a webinar about why the product may not be sustainable to purchase at the moment, as well as offer alternative recommendations in order to foster more diversity in menus. Drew credits Airtable for helping them develop the more streamlined processes the team needed for impact. When she first joined the project earlier this year, she inherited a spreadsheet with upwards of 15 different tabs, each with different names, color codes, and highlights. To an outsider, the system didn’t make sense.
“The information we collect from the chefs has to be easily accessible and customized for the many different stakeholders involved. Airtable’s views, fields, blocks, and functions are built in and make it possible to work across a distributed team.”