Beard, James Andrew

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Beard, James Andrew (1903–85) a commanding personality among American food writers and teachers from the 1940s until his death. His many books introduced readers to the possibility that cooking was more than a daily slog, that men might cook domestically as well as women, and that food was to be enjoyed for its innate character, not as a vehicle for unnecessary ornament or mere status.

He was born in Portland, Oregon, to an English mother who had emigrated in her youth and who kept a boarding house. His father was a customs official. He intended at first to go on the stage, but came to food as his larger ambitions apparently stumbled. In 1939, in partnership with the gourmet writer Bill Rhode (who died in 1946), he opened Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc. in New York, a shop that offered inventive canapés, take-away catering, and other foods. This gave rise to his first book, Hors d’Oeuvre and Canapés, in 1940. His second was Cooking it Outdoors in 1942. War service intervened, predominantly in catering for sailors, but on return to New York he immersed himself in the nascent food scene, appearing on television in 1946 (the first such performer in the USA), writing much for Gourmet, Woman’s Day, and House and Garden magazines, completing more books, and eventually serving a brief unhappy stint as restaurant manager on Nantucket. The early 1950s also saw him establish his cooking school in New York, with a later branch opening in Oregon, undertaking lecturing and freelance teaching, and entering into a consultancy with Restaurant Associates, a large company developing ‘theme’ restaurants, whose portfolio also included the Four Seasons in New York City.