Throughout the awards weekend, there is a resounding joy of being back. Caught up in celebration, the pandemic is largely forgotten. For a weekend, we're back from something that we have blotted from our memories. Masking is a rare occurrence. No one checks my vaccination card. To witness the presentation of awards, we pack into crowded rooms at close quarters, breathing one another’s breath. Afterwards, we return home to our restaurants, part of an industry that still needs a lot of help.
The James Beard Awards have a troubled past, but it’s looking to the future. There’s real hope that ensuing years will involve more transparency to how nominees and winners are chosen. But there needs to be more support for the industry through acknowledgement of the pandemic and its ongoing problems.
The presence of programs like this dining series is a reminder that restaurants still need help.