In June 2014, Bethlehem chef and restauranteur Lee Chizmar was invited to cook a meal in New York City at the James Beard House for members of the James Beard Foundation.
And in February, 2015, Chizmar found out he was a semifinalist in the 2015 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category. The competition honors chefs and restaurants in 21 categories from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Semifinalists are chosen from about 35,000 submissions.
Chizmar – whose Bethlehem farm-to-table restaurant, Bolete, was named one of 2014’s Best Restaurants in America by the website OpenTable – did not move on in the James Beard competition, but he still shines within the foundation as one of the chosen mentors for the James Beard 2016 Women in Culinary Leadership Grant program.
Each of the 22 grantees will be mentored by top industry leaders including Chizmar and his wife and Bolete co-owner, Erin Shea, who will be offering a position at Bolete.
Women in Culinary Leadership is an accelerated, learning-by-doing mentorship program. The program gives women who have a minimum of two years of professional hospitality or culinary experience the chance to work with top industry leaders.
Launched in 2012, the goal of the mentoring program is to help build in-depth leadership and management skills in the kitchen and in restaurant management and entrepreneurship. Eight female chefs have received the WICL grant to date, and of the six who have graduated all have received job offers from their mentors.
“I think we're always hoping to gain national press, and we've been very lucky so far,” Chizmar said in a previous interview.
The James Beard Foundation, in its 29th year, is a national nonprofit organization based in New York City. In addition to maintaining the historic James Beard House in Greenwich Village as a performance space for visiting chefs, the foundation hosts conferences, tastings, lectures, workshops and food-related art exhibits in New York City and around the nation.
A cookbook author and teacher, the late James Beard was a champion of American cuisine who helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. Today, the Beard Foundation continues in the same spirit by offering events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain and foster a deeper understanding of culinary culture.
Programs include educational initiatives, food industry awards, an annual national food conference, culinary scholarships and publications.