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How the changed Beard awards are impacting the industry


As James Beard Awards approach, a cloud of scandal hangs over the festivities as one of the nominees has been disqualified, others are under investigation for ethics violations, some judges have quit in protest, and some members of the food world wonder if the awards committee has overstepped its bounds.

The scandal started brewing in mid-May when Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood, Ala., announced that he had been disqualified for the award for Best Chef in the South, for which he had been nominated, because he yelled at a staff member and guests.

John Currence, a friend of Hontzas’ and the chef of City Grocery one state over in Oxford, Miss., smashed his own 2009 Beard Award for Best Chef in the South in protest, and posted about it in social media.

Then Todd Price, a food journalist and member of the Restaurant and Chef awards committee for the South, and Vishwesh Bhatt, a previous award winner and chef of Snackbar in Oxford, Miss., which is part of Currence’s restaurant group, resigned as a judge.

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