James Beard Foundation Prez Returns Award To Anti-Gay Boys Scouts

James Beard was one of the great foodies of the 20th century, a friend of Julia Child and an out gay man at a time that was unheard of. And he helped popularize fine dining in America, a nation reared on burgers and fried chicken. After Beard’s death in 1985, the James Beard Foundation continued his work, awarding recognition to great chefs, restaurateurs, cookbook writers and other defenders of great cuisine.

Ironically, the Foundation’s president, Susan Ungaro, was just honored by the Boy Scouts of America. Y’know, that bigoted group that doesn’t allow gay men to be scouts or troop leaders? Ungaro apparently didn’t think there was a problem accepting an award from a group that wouldn’t let the man responsible for her job be a member. She was only too happy to accept the trophy.

Until O.G. (Old-Gay) rabble rouser Michelangelo Signorile called Ungaro on her shit. (Actually he politely asked her press rep if for an explanation.)

First Ungaro’s rep said, “[She] accepted the award to support the dozens of New Jersey chefs who give of their time and resources year after year to raise money to send deserving at-risk youth to camp.”

Signorile responded by asking if Ms. Ungaro, a former editor at Family Circle and an occasional judge on Top Chef, would accept an award from an organization that banned blacks, just because it was giving food to needy white kids.

After that Ungardo did a complete 180 and returned the honor.

In a statement to Signorile, she said:

While I support all the poverty and hunger-fighting programs of the Boy Scouts of America, including sending at-risk youth to camp, your report brought to my attention that accepting the Distinguished Citizen Award implied I support their anti-gay policy, which I absolutely do not. When I accepted the honor, I was focused on supporting the New Jersey chefs and restaurant community. I have informed the Boy Scouts of America that I am rescinding my acceptance of the award.

People, people, people: Have we not all accepted that we live in a digital, hyper-intrusive society where you can’t pass gas without someone updating their Facebook status about it?  The whole thing leaves a bad taste in our mouth.(Get it? Food… taste…? Ah nevermind.)

Photo: William Paterson University