With the urgent and crucial need to fund research and remedies for a staggering amount of causes, diseases and humanitarian aid, the funding of the arts has taken an appropriate back seat to the heroic efforts of evolving the human condition.
How then, can one justify asking anyone for a dollar more to help fund the preservation of something so relatively frivolous as the arts? This was the conversation at our dinner table, shared by Kristofer Moon, director of the the James Beard Foundation’s strategic partnerships and charitable giving, along with the head of the New York Film Society Executive Director, Rose Kuo, Director of Corporate Sponsorship, Anne Chaisson and the amazing media wiz, Director of Digital Strategy, Eugene Hernandez.
As we embarked on a four hour dining adventure together at the famous Beard House, New York City, we delighted in each bite of culinary expression from the Beard kitchen – being ever so preciously created by chef Greg Biggers and pastry chef Patrick Fahy of the Sofitel Hotel, Chicago, both cooking for the first time at the Beard House.
The evening’s menu, ‘A Taste of Spring’ read like something out of any of the finest, most exclusive fine dining restaurant’s in the world. Wines were generously poured and paired, in the candle lit dining room of Beard’s actual house downtown Manhatan, just steps away from where JB himself slept – a la mirrors on the ceiling, and within sight of his large grinning portrait hanging over the living room fireplace. Perhaps his grin was due to the open air shower he installed on his terrace long before they were en vogue – much to the dismay of his neighbors who carefully planned parties around JB’s hygiene.
James Beard the man, was quite the character and an intelligent one at that. Born on cinco de Mayo, he was a brilliant business man, creative genius and, most wonderful of all, a great lover of the arts. James Beard lived a colorful life that was fueled by a tremendous joy for entertaining – and that spirit continues to live on in the James Beard Foundation ever since his passing in 1985.
The 28 year anniversary of the Beard House Foundation is now around the corner. James Beard may no longer be hosting dinner parties personally, but he has left behind a legacy, the sole purpose of which is to nurture the careers and culinary arts of young chefs by funding their education through scholarships presented by the Beard Foundation.
Dining at the Beard House or contributing to their programs gives those with great dreams and little means, a chance to pursue a culinary education in hopes of becoming a great chef one day – which, as I savored every morsel of our eight course meal that night, I felt a deep respect and gratitude in my heart and stomach for the gift of creating something so deliciously wonderful purely for the sake of pleasure, joy and living in the moment.
As for our dinner party’s philosophical question, “how one can reconcile giving valuable dollars to help support the arts in these desperate times,” went round and round, I was left with this tossed salad of thoughts.
“…..food, arts, film, literature – this is how we tell our stories. Our stories about love, history, despair, hope. The most important values and meanings of our time are beautifully expressed through artful mediums, therefore becoming a part of our culture. With the ability to reflect and retell these stories we are then able to grow from them – the evolution of humankind depends on our being able to not just recount our triumphs and mistakes, but to feel them in our hearts and souls with a multi sensory experience – the arts are an integral part of what makes us human-kind….”
What do YOU think?
I highly recommend dining at the Beard House if you would like more information on purchasing tickets to one of their many fabulous events, check out their website for the upcoming calendar.