Finally, bakers get credit

It’s about time. Since 1990, the prestigious James Beard Foundation (JBF) has honored the greatest talents and rising stars in the culinary world, with one notable exception: bakers. But in 2015, with the addition of the first JBF Outstanding Baker award, bakers will receive their due credit on the same stage with many other tremendous innovators in the nation’s food industry.

The JBF Restaurant and Chef Awards, the culinary industry’s most prestigious recognition program, will add a new Outstanding Baker category, according to the JBF. The Outstanding Pastry Chef category, won by Dominique Ansel in 2014, remains in place.

“The Outstanding Baker award grew from our desire to honor those professionals working beyond the restaurant dessert realm,” says JBF Restaurant and Chef Awards committee chair Phil Vettel. “Along with Outstanding Pastry Chef, this award acknowledges the vitality of the pastry and baking professions, in restaurants and in bakeries of many kinds, and the importance of bread and dessert to the dining experience.”

These words translate to a tremendous statement of recognition for bakers everywhere. It is also a sign that baking has officially arrived. No longer do bakers need to feel as though they don’t deserve the same amount of credit for doing extraordinary work. Food, and baking, is in style now, and bakers across the country should rejoice.

For decades here at bake magazine, we have been writing about and celebrating the tremendous innovation on the baking scene, and our newest project, twentyfive, which published in November, takes this recognition to an entirely new level by profiling 25 of the most innovative bakers, pastry chefs and cake artists in the country. If you haven’t seen twentyfive, it’s well worth a look. You can order copies online or by calling (816) 756-1000.

Semifinalists will be announced February 18, 2015, and final nominees in all categories will be announced on March 24, 2015. The James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony and Gala Reception will be held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on May 4, 2015.