In an unexpected twist to NYC’s ever-expanding stable of food halls, restaurant industry nonprofit the James Beard Foundation is throwing its hat in the ring. The national foundation and restaurant awards machine has teamed up with Jamestown — the seasoned food hall operators behind Chelsea Market and Brooklyn’s Industry City — and Google to launch a new food hall with over a dozen vendors at Pier 57 in Chelsea, opening in fall 2022.
Similar to other food halls across the city, the James Beard-backed endeavor aims to showcase “the rich culinary and cultural diversity of New York City,” the foundation’s CEO Clare Reichenbach shares with Eater. But the influential nonprofit is leaning on its deep bench of industry connections — with an eye toward gender and racial equity, Reichenbach says — to bring the 16,000-square-foot space to life. The foundation will be pulling from its network of chefs and restaurant industry workers involved with various James Beard programming, like its Women’s Leadership Program and Chefs Boot Camp, to help put together the yet-to-be-named vendor list for this food hall.
As the food hall’s marquee tenant, the Beard foundation will play a large role in shaping the overall mix of food vendors inside the space. The nonprofit will have full control over one of the vendor stalls, where it plans to showcase a rotating number of chefs involved in James Beard’s various programs, Reichenbach says. The nonprofit will also help pick out the 17 other food vendors, mostly local to NYC, to fill out the Jamestown-run space. “The center of gravity is absolutely New York City,” Reichenbach says. “This is a space to serve the local community.” The foundation has not yet confirmed any of the vendors in the space.
Aside from the vendors, James Beard will also run a show kitchen and demonstration on the ground floor surrounded by vendors that will highlight the nonprofit’s various events and programming throughout the year, according to Reichenbach.
While James Beard has managed food hall events like its annual Sunday Supper in Chelsea Market before and is known for hosting dinners from a rotating cast of guest chefs at the James Beard House in Greenwich Village, this particular project is new territory for the foundation. Reichenbach sees the forthcoming space as a way to bring the foundation’s mission, which has gone through its own reckoning and reworking in recent years, to move beyond just words. “It’s just a great way to bring to life what the foundation stands for,” Reichenbach says.
Pier 57, where the James Beard food hall will be located, is a sprawling waterfront space that was previously going to be the site of Anthony Bourdain’s Singaporean street hawker-inspired food hall. Those plans fell through in 2017, but the idea has since been revived by Bourdain’s former partners in the project, and the hall is slated to open in Midtown this year.
There have been a number of NYC food halls that have continued to open up despite the economic uncertainty amid the pandemic, including the Hugh in Midtown, Jacx & Co in Long Island City, and chef and restaurateur Alexander Smalls’s forthcoming African food hall in Harlem.