An award-winning food Culinary historian, educator, memoirist and cookbook author, Jessica B. Harris, has been named as recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the James Beard Foundation however, postponed its annual awards ceremony slated for May as well as its nomination announcements to an unconfirmed date in the summer. Nevertheless, the foundation has bestowed a special honor on Harris.
Harris was born on the 18th of March, 1948, in Queens, New York. She attended the United Nations International School and further advanced on to the High School of the Performing Arts, where she graduated in 1964. After high school, Harris attended Bryn Mawr College, earning her A.B. degree in French in 1968.
During her stay, she spent her junior year abroad in Paris. Thereafter she returned to Nancy in 1968, attending the Universite de Nancy for a year, and went on to earn her master’s degree from Queens College in 1971. Harris earned her PhD from New York University in 1983.
Harris became an English professor at Queens College, CUNY. She consults at Dillard University in New Orleans, where she established the Institute for the Study of Culinary Cultures. Also a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and a member of the Les Dames d’Escoﬃer and IACP.
She has 12 cookbooks under her belt documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora. While her most recent book is titled “High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America”. More so, she has written widely about the culture of Africa in the Americas and lectured widely.
Furthermore, she authored the memoir, “ My Soul Looks Back ” (Simon & Schuster, 2017) documenting her youth in Harlem in the 70s, where her social circle consisted of Toni Morrison, Nina Simone, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and other leading black intellectuals and artists of the time.
Her articles have been published in Essence, Good & Wine, Eating Well and The New Yorker, and has been proﬁled in The Today Show, The New York Times, and Good Morning America, the Museum of Natural History. She has also appeared several times at Philadelphia’s The Book and the Cook show.
In 2004, Harris received the Jack Daniel’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Also, she was recently inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.
“Everything doesn’t have to be a Social Media Photo . Does it taste good? What’s it doing in your mouth? My philosophy about food is if you put together things that you like, you’re probably going to come up with something you like,” Harris said.