Chefs Dawn Burrell and Chris Williams will be joined by Houston First in co-hosting the Houston dinner for the James Beard Awards: Stories of Resilience and Leadership(Photo by Jenn Duncan)
When the James Beard Foundation raises the curtain on “James Beard Awards: Stories of Resilience and Leadership,” two of Houston’s top chefs will be in the spotlight along with a select clutch of chefs from Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Lucille’s Chris Williams and Dawn Burrell, tapped among those who have made a significant impact in the industry and their communities during the COVID 19 pandemic, will host one of five nationwide dinners to be held in conjunction with the awards.
In Houston, the chefs are joined by Houston First as co-hosts.
Chicago will host the live event on September 27, which will highlight “inspiring stories of passion, community, innovation, resilience and leadership under extreme hardships during the pandemic.”
Few could have had more impact than Williams, who through his Lucille’s 1913 foundation has provided more than 200,000 meals throughout the Houston area, kept his staff in place and hired others who had been laid off during the pandemic.
“When the pandemic first hit, it was terrifying,” Williams says in a statement. “Our goal was to keep our staff safe and whole, while providing impactful solutions to help the community that has supported us for nearly a decade.”
Lucille’s will be site of the September 27 invitation-only dinner with both Williams and James Beard finalist Burrell manning the kitchen. To encourage broader participation in the evening, the foundation is creating a special awards watch-party kit featuring appetizers from four of the recent James Beard House Fellows. The kit is expected to be available in early September.
“It’s such an honor to participate in this year’s initiative,” Burrell says. “Now more than ever, the support of the James Beard Foundation is needed to celebrate and empower the restaurant industry’s resilience.
“We suffered an incredibly trying year, and many independent restaurants are still struggling right now. I’m thankful to work with this Lucille’s Hospitality Group team, whose passions and will to serve our community helped us pivot and persevere.”
The evening replaces the annual James Beard Awards, which are being reevaluated and audited in response to allegations last year about personal and professional behavior in the restaurant industry as well as a lack of diverse representation among the honorees, which was detailed in the New York Times.