We are deeply grateful — and humbly honored — to report that “Coldwater Kitchen” took home a James Beard Foundation award in Chicago on Saturday.
The James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability. ” Its annual awards, including a ceremony specifically for media, are widely considered the equivalent of the Oscars for the food and restaurant industry.
“Coldwater Kitchen” was nominated in the documentary/docuseries visual media category along with “James Hemings: Ghost in America’s Kitchen” and “Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter.”
In the house for the awards ceremony were “Coldwater” co-directors Mark Kurlyandchik and Brian Kaufman, executive producer Desiré Vincent Levy and two of the film’s stars, Dink Dawson and Ernest Davis.
At the podium accepting the award, Kurlyandchik started by shouting out Chef Jimmy Lee Hill, absent because he was overseas, describing him as “the heart of this film.”
Kurlyandchik then explained how the movie was sparked by a letter Davis wrote to him touting the extraordinary work being done by Chef Hill’s food tech program, which teaches incarcerated men the techniques of high-end cuisine. At the time, Davis was a longtime sous chef for Chef Hill and serving a life sentence at Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Mich.
“It’s a film about purpose, and how food can bring purpose and change lives. I mean the fact that when we met five years ago, (Davis) was looking at life without parole, and now we’re standing here in front of all of you accepting an award from the James Beard Foundation,” Kurlyandchik said.
In noting that “institutional cooking is not sexy,” Kurlyandchik was highlighting idea that programs like Chef Hill’s don’t often find themselves in the spotlight.
“This foundation, and many of us in this room, have not historically given our fair due to the folks who cook in our schools, who cook in our hospitals, for the sick and infirm, for folks who cook in in these large places like prisons, who really are the ones who are impacting our community,” he said.
“So the fact that the James Beard Foundation recognized … this film with this award, it means that it really is about ‘good food for good,’ ” referencing the foundation’s official slogan.
Read Detroit Free Press story about the win here.
Read James Beard Foundation’s coverage, and full list of media winners, here.
Watch the James Beard Foundation media awards ceremony below. (We’ve got it cued up for our category.)