The James Beard Media Awards become another front in the streaming wars for services big and small
Here in Emmy nomination season, major video streaming services are once again festooning the streets of Los Angeles with FYC
Meanwhile, another smaller battle is brewing for equally beloved rewards in a particular corner of the streaming universe, food. It comes to a head this weekend, as the James Beard Media Awards are given out to the best food-related video shows, documentaries and reality competitions, among other categories.
And the video nominees don’t just include programs from media giants like Netflix.
In total, the James Beard Media Awards honor three dozen categories of books, journalism, podcasts, and more. They will be presented at a ceremony Saturday at Columbia College in Chicago, a first for the awards.
people who watched Julia, HBO Max’s delightful drama series about Julia Child’s first steps into television and stardom, saw a major cameo from Beard, enthusiastically played by Christian Clemenson. A very tall, very outgoing man in a time when that was difficult at best (he describes himself on the show as “a fat old fairy”), Beard marked an influential part of food culture just when the United States was beginning to wake up. from a haze of canned food and frozen TV dinners. Today, the foundation bearing his name apparently recognizes all aspects of trade and food culture in America.
And while the Emmys get the glitz and the marketing dollars, in the world of food, the James Beard Awards mean a lot. plot, even in Hollywood.
“My jaw dropped when I found out we were nominated,” said Matt Reichman, current vice president of production for Peacock and NBCUniversal TV, who is responsible for the long-running Excellent chef reality competition series and its many spin-offs.
“It’s such a respected institution,” Reichman said of the Beard Awards, “the way they celebrate all things food and select different outlets, whether it’s a podcast, d ‘a book or TV show doing something unique and worthy of recognition, that’s just sort of mind blowing to me.
great leader, which is filming its 20th season, has won two James Beard Awards over the years and remains a ratings powerhouse for NBCU’s Bravo cable channel.
This year’s nominee, however, is a spin-off contest that Reichman oversaw for NBCU’s new streaming service, Peacock. Top Chef: family style tweaks the contest formula, featuring young cooks, each assisted by a trusted family member. The show debuted in early September, hosted by prominent New York chef Marcus Samuelsson.
It proved so popular on Peacock that Family Style has since been “encore” on Bravo, often running after episodes of the franchise’s mothership’s final season, which wrapped just last week.
“History is about more than cute kids who are food lovers,” Reichman said of Family Style. “They watch cooking shows, and Excellent chef more precisely, as a typical child looks The Avengers. They look at Marcus Samuelsson and he’s their superhero. They found their tribe in this show.
Food writer Padma Lakshmi is also nominated for a James Beard Video Award, but not for her work on great leader, where she has been a host for much of the past two decades. Instead, his Hulu-based exploration of immigrant food and culture in the United States, Taste the nation, was nominated in the Visual Media – Long Form category for four “Holiday Edition” episodes.
“I’m very honored,” Lakshmi said. “The James Beard Foundation has always been on my bucket list. I’ve worked with them over the years on their Open For Good and other campaigns. I think I presented (the awards) a year.
Now she hopes to be on the other end of the awards show. Lakshmi said she had been trying to win a Beard Award for a long time, even taking the time a few years ago to write an encyclopedia of herbs and spices that she was sure could finally get her first nomination. No chance.
Instead, Beard’s first nomination from Lakshmi came for Taste the nation, on which Lakshmi serves as both executive producer and host, and has tightly shaped the narratives with her own vision and experience as an immigrant.
She calls taste the nation “an author’s show. This is the opinion of one person: mine. It was born out of the belief that everyone has an interesting story to tell if you’re just willing to let them tell it.
Lakshmi’s series focuses on the intersection of food, immigrant cultures, and life in their new American homes. The nominated four-part edition examines how different cultures use food to celebrate their respective winter holidays. It’s an area rarely explored by mainstream media, she said.
“The mainstream media is still dominated by European-Americans,” Lakshmi said. By intentional contrast, taste the nation “was to let immigrants speak for themselves. I go there with a very thoughtful thesis, but then I can come up with something very different. taste the nation is to give to people who haven’t had mainstream exposure, but who deserve it. It’s also about letting me tell their story as they see fit.
She said the sensibility echoes part of the food sensibility is the culture of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning Jonathan Gold, who wrote deeply informed critiques and cultural exegeses on the patchwork of immigrant neighborhoods in its beloved Los Angeles, as seen through the focusing lens of their many wonderful hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
On Saturday night, the foundation will also present the Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award, honoring a writer who writes compellingly about food in their city or region.
“I see my approach to the show as closer to what Jonathan Gold was trying to do: uncover aspects of our food culture that are really important and vibrant,” Lakshmi said. “With taste the nation, food is really just a Trojan horse. It is an excuse to understand these communities.
But it’s not just the biggest media companies in the world (Disney, Netflix, Comcast
Mississippi State University Films is nominated in the Documentary/Docuseries Visual Media category for The hungriest state, a series that details food insecurity and hunger in the college backyard, the impoverished Mississippi Delta, and the Gulf Coast.
Broadcast affiliate ABC7 New York is nominated, against Lakshmi Taste the nation, for Visual Media – Long Form for his show Eat! New York.
And perhaps the most unlikely video nominee is sparklersa freshman competition series from Somm TV, which launched as a subscription video service just two years ago, built around co-founders Jason and Christina Wise’s love of food and wine.
sparklers is in competition with Top Chef: family style in the Reality or Competition Visual Media category, and ultimately represents another softer tweak on the core Excellent chef formula.
In sparklers, a group of cooks gathers, as usual. But they are all (very competitive) friends, focused on culinary creations that they must pair with sparkling wines from around the world. And rather than an intimidating panel of celebrity chefs as judges, contestants take turns judging each other’s work.
“Every country that produces wine produces sparkling wine,” said Jason Wise, a veteran director who also produced the show with Christina Wise. “Sparkling wine is the most indulgent wine. (The show is) about integrating our idea that wine is food and culture, and that it is not necessary to talk about food separately.
Getting James Beard nominated was a delightful shock for the startup, which has about 20 original series, all made on much smaller budgets than the typical Netflix or Hulu show, Wise said. This difference in production and marketing budgets definitely dampened Wise’s expectations in the Beard competition.
“I will say this: We submitted with the perception that there was a zero percent chance of being nominated,” Wise said. “For lack of a better term, they are the most important prize when it comes to food and wine and what moves the needle in that space. The fact that we were nominated was a huge thing for us.
For a small, food-focused outlet like Somm TV, the Beard Awards might even be bigger, or at least more within reach, than the Emmys, with those massive FYC campaigns well beyond Somm TV’s portfolio. .
“Yeah, we can submit to the Emmys, but you really need millions of dollars or whatever it takes to let the Emmys (voters) know you submitted,” Wise said. This was not the case with the James Beard Foundation, which regularly recognizes unique, new, regional and lesser-known creators in the world of food.
Lakshmi called the broad and democratic reach of the foundation “Wonderful. This is why I like to support the James Beard Foundation. They give equal consideration to regional writers who are doing great work in this country. This is also true of (nominations for work by) regional television stations.
For his part, Wise said Somm has yet to begin work on a second season of sparklers, but the nomination certainly makes him strongly consider another race.
“It’s just going to show it, and I hate to put that on the American Dream, but you can do it,” Wise said. “Where we want to go with this, the answer would be yes (to a second season). To me, it’s like you’re in the conversation to get a Heisman trophy.