Last year, for the first time, The Daily Meal — with the help of members of The Daily Meal Council — singled out 10 key figures from the food world, both American and foreign-born, living and dead, to enshrine in our Hall of Fame. Our intention is to add to this august body every year, honoring an ever-wider circle of men and women who have influenced the way we eat and think about food.
The idea of a "hall of fame" goes back more than a century and a half, to Bavaria. There, between 1830 and 1842, King Ludwig I created the Walhalla Memorial, in the town of Regensburg, to honor some 160 key figures and events from German history. The term "hall of fame" was first used, in its German form — Ruhmeshalle — for a literal hall, a Doric colonnade full of plaques and busts honoring prominent local figures that was dedicated in Munich in 1853.It was this structure that reportedly inspired the first American interpretation of the concept, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, established in 1901 at what is now New York City's Bronx Community College. This is an outdoor sculpture gallery, restored and enlarged several times since its founding, with busts representing an initial roster of some 50 genuinely distinguished American men and women, from John and John Quincy Adams to Orville and Wilbur Wright, with the likes of Daniel Boone, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Booker T. Washington along the way. (There are now 102 honorees.)
Today, there are hundreds of halls (and walls, and walks) of fame around the world, honoring luminaries from almost any field imaginable. The Astronaut Hall of Fame, the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the World Curling Federation Hall of Fame, the Insurance Hall of Fame, the Polka Hall of Fame… the list goes on and on. Oh, and of course the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted its first members — including James Brown, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and Jerry Lee Lewis — in January of 1986.
Ours is not the only Hall of Fame devoted to culinary luminaries, it must be said. There are regional versions in Arizona, central Florida, Colorado, and the Chicago area; New York's Institute of Culinary Education honors celebrated graduates and the American Academy of Chefs does the same for retired member chefs. Then there's something called the Culinary Hall of Fame ("Honoring ALL Things Culinary"), run by Colorado-based chef Fred Roosli, which honors a miscellaneous selection of chefs (Paul Bocuse, Cat Cora), culinary schools, TV shows, restaurants, internet sites, charitable organizations, and even a few recipes (layered eggplants with tomato, scallops, and seafood vinaigrette; roasted beef tenderloin with yam fries and ponzu sauce).What has not previously existed, as far as we can tell, is a genuine Hall of Fame for important, influential chefs and others in the food world — one based on genuine accomplishments and lasting significance rather than on ephemeral "celebrity."
What has not previously existed, as far as we can tell, is a genuine Hall of Fame for important, influential chefs and others in the food world — one based on genuine accomplishments and lasting significance rather than on ephemeral "celebrity" — a Hall of Fame for the Elvis Presleys and Ray Charleses of gastronomy and the culinary arts, not the (no offense) Tab Hunters and the Ricky Nelsons. That's what The Daily Meal Hall of Fame endeavors to be.
When we decided to create our own Hall of Fame at The Daily Meal, to honor key figures in the culinary world, we took this last institution as a loose model. Borrowing a methodology from the Rock and Rollers, last year we asked a nominating committee of 20 writers and other non-chefs from The Daily Meal Council to come up with a short list of some 25 figures. Our aim was to identify people both living and dead — chefs, restaurateurs, cookbook writers and authors, food producers, or anyone else in any aspect of the food trade — who have been of overriding importance to the development of cuisine and/or our experience of what we cook and eat.
We submitted this list of 25 to The Daily Meal Council (which now has more than 70 members), asked them to vote for 10, in order of preference, and tallied the votes of the respondents. The figures they selected for our first iteration of the Hall of Fame were James Beard, Paul Bocuse, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Julia Child, Elizabeth David, Auguste Escoffier, M.F.K. Fisher, Thomas Jefferson, Fernand Point, and Alice Waters. This year, we repeated the process, starting with the 15 men and women who didn't make the cut last year and asking our nominating committee to add 10 names to the list before throwing voting open to our Council membership at large.
Today, we begin announcing our second 10 inductees into The Daily Meal Hall of Fame. One is featured here; the others will appear each weekday for nine more days. Next year, we'll induct 10 more. Visit the Daily Meal Hall of Fame here.