Reality Check: The Life of a James Beard Cookbook Judge

Have you ever wondered what life is like for the James Beard Award cookbook judges? Do you imagine the year's best cookbooks arriving magically in the mail all year, to be cooked through carefully and thoroughly?

Well, it's pretty much nothing like that, as James Beard cookbook judge Jenn Garbee revealed this week in the LA Weekly.Apparently anyone who has published a cookbook in 2010 can pay $100 to be considered for the award, so the first order of business when the piles of books arrived on Garbee's doorstep was sorting out all the books she knew didn't need a second glance. But there was also a stack of books that needed to be looked at more carefully, in case it held a potential winner from a lesser-known publisher.

Then it was time to start cooking. Although judges need only test recipes from the five books they recommend for consideration, Garbee says, "It's impossible not to continually remember that if it were your cookbook up for review, you'd want a fair shake. Time to preheat the oven again."

All of this work takes place over just a couple months, making an already time-intensive process sound all-consuming. Our hats are off to all the judges!

Read the article: Behind The James Beard Awards: A Cookbook Judge's Journey
Check out the nominees: James Beard Awards: 2011 finalists - CNN Eatocracy

Do you have any favorites in this year's list of nominees?

Related: What Would Be the Ideal Cookbook for Your Kitchen?

(Image: James Beard Foundation)

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Anjali is a former private chef who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in nutrition, with plans to become a registered dietitian. She lives in Los Angeles. You can read more of her health-focused writing at Eat Your Greens.

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