James Beard Awards fights 'elitist' criticism and streams live webcast to public

For the first time in the 21-year history of the James Beard Awards gala ceremony, the common folks - home cooks, frugal gourmets and Food Network junkies - will be able to watch the 'Oscars of the food world' in a live webcast of the event.

The James Beard Foundation Awards, scheduled for Monday night at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York, will open the doors to their normally swanky, exclusive event and beam the event into cyberspace for the general public to see.

Instead of forking over $450 for a seat at the table, viewers can watch remotely and give running commentary on winner's speeches, the looks of defeat, and the miscarriages of gastronomic justice at 6 pm New York time.

The decision to open the event to the online public may not be lost on TV host and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who has been a vocal opponent of the annual gala calling it insular, elitist, and likening it to a "self congratulatory goat rodeo/awards ceremony/chef shakedown."

Bourdain is a nominee this year for his appearance with chef friend Eric Ripert on their radio show Turn and Burn, but has said he'd rather attend a "Renaissance Fair in Hell," than be caught at the gala.

Described as the 'Oscars of the food world,' the James Beard Awards is the most prestigious culinary event for US chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers and food writers, as a nod by the New York foundation fills dining rooms every night.

The live stream will be made available at http://jamesbeard.org/awardslive/. The event starts at 6 pm EDT Monday, May 9.

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