The James Beard Foundation – which celebrates America’s culinary heritage – has launched a ‘Design Icon Restaurant Award’, with the inaugural winner announced as the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York.
The special award has been established to recognise restaurants in the US “that serve as national standard bearers of outstanding design and design innovation.”
In order to qualify, a restaurant’s design must have remained unchanged for at least 20 years and must have influenced and inspired the design of subsequent restaurants. “It’s an honour to award The Four Seasons Restaurant the first ever James Beard Foundation Design Icon Award,” said James Biber, chair of the Restaurant Design Awards Committee and founder of Biber Architects. “In introducing generations of diners to modern elegance and luxury, The restaurant at the Four Seasons, New York City, forever changed restaurant design, even as it remained virtually unchanged itself.”
The restaurant, which opened in 1959, was designed by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe to be as luxurious and modern as possible. Over the years it has exhibited rotating galleries of modern art, including a Picasso stage curtain from a 1919 French production of the ballet Le Tricorne, and works by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Jackson Pollock and Joán Miró.
Today the Museum of Modern Art in New York features more than 100 of the restaurant’s elements in its collection.
“We are deeply humbled to be the recipients of this award and grateful to have spent so many years in such a beautiful restaurant,” said current owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder. “James Beard was one of The Four Seasons’ greatest champions when it opened back in 1959, and we’re honoured to see that come full circle by accepting this great honour in his name.”
The James Beard Foundation is also due to announce the final nominees for all award categories ahead of an awards gala in Chicago on 2 May.
James Beard was a teacher and cookery author famous for his encyclopaedic knowledge of food.
The foundation has operated since his death in 1985, running educational initiatives, food industry awards, scholarships for culinary students and maintaining the James Beard House in New York’s Greenwich Village as a “performance space” for visiting chefs.