Road to a Beard win

The Food Section brings home a medal

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My preparations for the James Beard Foundation media awards on Saturday included making plans to get together with friends, and mail-ordering a pair of high-heel shoes. They didn’t include writing any kind of acceptance speech.

Winner after winner said the same at the ceremony, held at Columbia College in Chicago, and then reached into a suit pocket for notes or clicked on a phone app to open a document. Each articulate statement of gratitude made me more nervous—and since the journalism awards are given out last, following the book and broadcast media prizes, there were lots of them prior to my possible podium appearance.

I was up for two Beards: One for Column/Newsletter, and one for Dining & Travel, scheduled to be announced in immediate succession. Since I was up against Garden & Gun and Bon Appetit in the latter category, I figured Newsletter was my best shot. So, while I worried, I composed a speech outline in my head, just in case.

What I wanted to say was that Substack gave me a few pointers when I launched this newsletter. Namely, I would see growth so long as I published plenty of Twitter threads, and didn’t charge for my best work.

Instead, I went with my own strategy, which was to produce great journalism. And along with the people who bought into my vision of holding power in the food industry to account, and providing the information and analysis that makes eating experiences more meaningful, we showed that strategy works.

Because my friend José Ralat won the Newsletter award, I never got to give that speech. But I wanted to share it with you, the people who are responsible for The Food Section’s success. Thank you.

In any case, I won the Dining & Travel medal, so did end up giving a messy, disorganized speech: Since leaving the stage, I’ve learned the euphemism for those adjectives is “heartfelt.”

You can watch that speech online, but I’d rather you read the Interstate 95 guide that was honored. Of course, only paying subscribers can access the story. That’s my strategy, and I’m sticking to it.


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  1. Avatar photoAndrea Nguyen says

    Hanna! Being up for 2 JBAs is a double whammy. Winning one of them is definitely icing/extra frosting on the cake.

    Substack suggests lots of things but is writers and publishers gotta find our own paths. So proud of and thrilled for you!

  2. Avatar photoJason Sandford says

    Congratulaions, Hanna! You’ve worked long and hard for this. It is a well-deserved honor.

  3. Avatar photoSidney Otis says

    Hanna- you have made me a foodie by your excellence in the Post & Courier. A Beard Award just seems like it was a matter of time. Congratulations!!

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