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Food Briefs

Honoring a Legend

November 13, 1986|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

The late James Beard was honored last week at the official opening of what is being called the nation's first culinary center at the cooking legend's former New York City residence.

The event also launched a fund-raising campaign to finance the operations of this aspiring headquarters for American cuisine.

Cookbook author and TV personality Julia Child is leading the effort to transform the four-story Greenwich Village brownstone into a showcase that eventually will include a research center, library and meeting facilities. The restoration will also maintain Beard's specially designed kitchen and the distinctive, glass-enclosed greenhouse dining room.

The project is being undertaken by the newly formed James Beard Foundation, which has appealed to both the food industry and the public for donations. In return for contributions, the group offers selective access to cooking classes, media functions and special dinners.

Beard authored more than 20 highly regarded cookbooks prior to his death in January, 1985. He also appeared frequently on television as a food expert and wrote a syndicated newspaper cooking column for 14 years.

The nonprofit foundation seeks to restore and maintain the Beard home, which, as part of his estate, was willed to Reed College in Portland, Ore. Earlier this year, the group purchased the residence from the school.

The foundation's plans call for the town house, originally valued at $1.4 million, to serve as a gathering place for the nation's food professionals, according to Julia Child.

"We are trying to establish gastronomy as a profession such as architecture, law and other disciplines. Now we'll have a center for people in the wine and food business to meet and exchange ideas," she said, in a telephone interview with The Times.

"(The Beard home) will be like having Beethoven's house as a center for musicians because Beard is as important to food people as Beethoven is to the music world," Child said. "He was somebody unique in this field and I don't think that anyone could take his place at all. Beard is the great father figure (for American cuisine)."

Among other things, the foundation plans to offer a series of dinners, prepared by some of the nation's premiere chefs, that will be served in what is now the 66-seat, second-story dining room. The group also intends to reacquire the extensive book collection compiled by Beard, which was auctioned after his death.

"The ultimate thing is to preserve the building because it was his house and Beard was the first truly important man in American gastronomy," said Peter Kump, the foundation's president and owner of a Manhattan cooking school. "While Beard was alive his home was like an 18th-Century salon where people were always visiting. And he was very generous with his house. For instance, he would frequently host press parties for unknown cookbook authors so that these new people could meet the food establishment. We're trying to keep that going."

Contributions to the James Beard Foundation are processed as annual memberships starting at $50. For more information call (212) 675-4984.

Trouble With Recipes--A Los Angeles-based publishing company that distributes recipes in subscription form recently ran afoul of the Federal Trade Commission. The firm, International Master Publishers, Inc., was accused by the agency of failing to honor subscription cancellations and misrepresenting its return policy.

The company offers a mail-order program entitled "My Great Recipes," under which consumers receive a selection of 72 different cooking formulas every three weeks.

Problems arose over complaints that the publisher continued to bill consumers who had attempted to cancel their subscriptions. Billings were also sent to individuals who returned the recipe cards under a "no obligation" option.

Additionally, the FTC claimed that International Master inaccurately claimed that failure to pay disputed billings would hurt subscribers' credit records when such was not the case. The agency also stated that the firm "dunned" consumers, or insistently asked for payment and sent disputed billings to collection agencies.

Last week, the FTC announced that it had reached a consent agreement with the company aimed at precluding any recurrences. However, future violations may result in fines of up to $10,000. In signing the agreement, the company did not admit any wrongdoing nor violations.

Relief From the Deep--A UC Davis study could precipitate a sales boost for less-than-popular cod-liver oil. Researchers have found that a diet high in such fish oils helped individuals suffering from psoriasis, a recurring skin disease.

Patients with the condition reported a mild to moderate improvement after undergoing an eight-week eating plan that included high concentrations of the fish-based oil, the current Archives of Dermatology reported.

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