James Beard, the granddaddy of fine cuisine in America, taught his students the fine points of gourmet preparation in the small kitchen of his brownstone in New York's Greenwich Village. After his death, that kitchen, papered with maps of the world, has become the focal point of an important natural resource for those who love food.
The old brownstone is now a center for gastronomy in the United States and regularly opens its doors to the food-loving public, as well as those working in the food industry. Chefs from around the United States come to cook in Beard's old kitchen for a variety of special luncheons and dinners open to those who support the foundation with a modest membership fee.
The foundation was established after Beard's death in 1985 at the inspiration of Julia Child and with the help of other foodies such as its current president, noted cook Peter Kump.
Recent events included a July 4 celebration with chef Randall Pentacost of the Waterford Hotel in Oklahoma City, Okla., a classic English afternoon tea with Linda Piggot, chef to the British ambassador to the United Nations, and a Bastille Day dinner for which French chef Jean Louis Gerin of Restaurant Jean-Louis in Greenwich, Conn., did the honors in the kitchen.
Mr. Gerin prepared freshly grilled skewers of poultry, seafood and vegetables as guests gathered in the brownstone's garden. (You can't be too formal, here, the garden is reached by sliding through the kitchen). Guests paid $70 apiece for a repast consisting of the appetizers, a first course of roasted sea scallops, a main course of roasted quail and a dessert of festive fruit soup, along with five fine wines.
Mr. Kump said that the Beard Foundation now has about 1,800 members and would like to expand that list to about 2,500.
For membership, those who live within 75 miles of Manhattan pay an annual $75 "resident" fee. Those living farther away may join the foundation for $50 a year. There are several types of professional memberships.
Members may bring guests to Beard House events, with guests paying a slightly higher tab, generally $15 over the members' price.
Upcoming events in August include an evening with chef Elizabeth Terry, of Elizabeth on 37th in Atlanta, Ga., as part of the Great Regional Chefs of America series, on Aug. 29 ($70, members).
September highlights include a continuation of the Italian Luncheon and Great Country Inns series.
For information on becoming a member of the James Beard Foundation and attending events at the Beard House, you may call (212) 675-4984.