2007_03_beard.jpgOn Monday night there will be a huge, star-studded, red-carpet event held at Avery Fisher Hall with men in tuxes, women in floor-length gowns, and paparazzi galore. Some swanky movie premiere? No -- the James Beard Awards, an annual event that is taking a grand step up in venue this year (in the past it had taken place at the Marriott Marquis). But many question the decision to glam up the awards. Not only did Anthony Bourdain scoff at the decision to have restaurant staff prepare food in a venue with no kitchen, but for an organization that was drowning in scandal as recently as 2004, was this really a good choice?

As a recap, the former president of the board embezzled money, and the entire board resigned. The board has since been reconstituted and the organization is now being run more professionally and with stricter controls, reports the Times. Some of the questions about the organization's mission that were raised back then still remain, however, and the foundation is still operating at a deficit. Some argued that is was merely an expensive dining club: Where had all the money from all those Beard House dinners gone, and what was the foundation doing, anyway?

They were shocked to discover that only $29,000 of the foundation’s operating funds went to scholarships, which many chefs and participants said they thought were a major purpose of the dinners and other activities.

Under the new leadership, overall scholarship funding changed modestly. The foundation also functions as a conduit for funds earmarked by donors for scholarships and including those, it gave out $155,750 in the last fiscal year, according to the organization’s chief financial officer, Marilyn Platzer. That’s about 9 percent more than was given out in the fiscal year [the former president] left. The awards event organizers have said that the $1.2 million cost is only "slightly higher" than last year's, and expect that it will raise approximately $100,000 for the foundation.

A full list of nominees for this year's awards can be found on the James Beard Foundation website.