Andrew Beard (May 5, 1903 - January 21,
1985) was born to Elizabeth and John Beard in Portland, Oregon. John
worked at Portland's Customs House, while Elizabeth operated a boarding
house. James had an interest in food at an early age. In his memoir he
wrote of the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition "I was taken to the
exposition two or three times. The thing that remained in my mind above
all others — I think it marked my life — was watching Triscuits and
shredded wheat biscuits being made. Isn't that crazy? At two years old
that memory was made. It intrigued the hell out of me."
He also gained an appreciation for Chinese food as a young boy, as the
family employed a Chinese helper. During a battle with malaria when he was
only three years old, he grew fond of the cuisine while bedridden. This
appreciation for Chinese cuisine and culture and the influence of his time
spent in France during the 1920's set his course for the chef he would
trained as a singer and actor and lived and worked in France for several
years in the 1920's, returning to the U.S. in 1927. Eight years later, he
and friend Bill Rhodes opened a catering company in New York City and his
life took on a new direction. The catering company was called "Hors
d'Oeuvre, Inc." and was pretty successful, capitalizing on the
cocktail party business. His first cookbook was born out of that business
titled, Hors d'Oeuvre and Canapes.
He began lecturing, teaching and writing books and articles as his
business was grinding to a halt due to the war. But in 1946, he got a
break and was featured on the NBC television show I Love to Eat.
His rise to fame as "The Dean of American Cuisine" had begun.
In 1955, he established The James Beard Cooking School in New York City,
where he taught for next 30 or so years. America was hungry for his
message of good, fresh, prepared food using wholesome American
ingredients. James Beard traveled tirelessly, teaching around the country
to get his message out. It was during these years he branded the James
Beard name and secured his place in American culinary history.
James Beard, along with Gael Greene, founded Citymeals-on-Wheels in 1981,
an organization dedicated to feeding the home-bound elderly in New York
City. That organization is still opperating today.
James Beard died in New York City of heart failure at 81 years old. His
body was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the beach in Gearhart,
Oregon where he spent his childhood years vacationing, fshing and