Jessica B. Harris Receives James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award.
James Beard names its lifetime achievement award winner The James Beard Foundation announced the recipient of one of its most prestigious titles this week, awarding the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award to Jessica B. Harris, who was born in Queens and taught at Queens/CUNY for close to 50 years. As a professor, an editor, a historian, and an author, Harris’s work centers on the foodways of the African diaspora. She’s just the second African-American woman to receive the honor, following in the footsteps of the late, legendary New Orleans chef Leah Chase, who received the award in 2016.
Among her many contributions to the food industry, Harris has written extensively about the ways in which the African diaspora has influenced cooking in the United States, with books like Sky Juice and Flying Fish: Traditional Caribbean Cooking, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from African to America, and Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking. More recently, her work has touched the Museum of Food and Drink’s New York exhibition, called African/American: Making the Nation’s Table, which highlights the black farmers, chefs, and restaurants who have shaped America’s national culinary identity.
“I am mindful that while my name is on [this award], it is also meant for those African Americans in the hospitality world in the past who labored unheralded, un-thanked, and for too many centuries unpaid or underpaid,” Harris shared in a statement through the foundation. “I hope that this extraordinary honor heralds the beginning of a new era when all Americans can sit down and fully participate at the nation’s table and none of us are strangers at the feast.”