Nora Pouillon Honored by James Beard Foundation

Nora Pouillon, the chef whose eponymous Washington restaurant paved the way for other chefs to cook with local, organic ingredients, will be honored with a James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award, the foundation announced Tuesday. She will accept the prize at the James Beard Awards on May 1 in Chicago.
“To get a Michelin star — for me, that would not be as much as getting this award,” said Pouillon.
The award is especially poignant because it reminded her of the time that James Beard himself dined at her restaurant in the early 1980s, a few years before the death of the prolific author, TV host and cooking teacher.
“James Beard was my big hero. He believed in local, seasonal food, and he cooked delicious food, but simple food, and that’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “He came to the restaurant — he had so much terrible gout, he came in his slippers — and we sat at the bar.”There, she opened up to him about how difficult it was to get diners in her adopted country to understand her philosophy about food.
“I told him I was struggling with the Americans because I had to buy whole animals, and no one wants to eat liver or kidney,” she said. “He said, ‘Just keep on doing what you’re doing, and they’ll come around.’
”Austrian-born Pouillon, 73, moved to Washington in the 1960s with her French journalist husband and was shocked at the unhealthful food she saw here. She began a cooking school in her home, and opened Restaurant Nora in 1979. It was the first restaurant in the nation to be certified organic, inspiring a generation of chefs to source the best ingredients from farms with sustainable practices. She also became a female chef-owner in an era when they were scarce.

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