Food & Drink

For this Miami food editor, winning the James Beard Award is personal

Miami Herald Food Editor Carlos Frías won the James Beard Foundation award in journalism in the Local Impact category at New York City's Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on April 27, 2018.
Miami Herald Food Editor Carlos Frías won the James Beard Foundation award in journalism in the Local Impact category at New York City's Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on April 27, 2018. Courtesy Carlos Frías

Miami Herald Food Editor Carlos Frías won a James Beard Foundation award Friday in a ceremony held in New York City.

Frias, 42, who has been the Herald's food editor for two years, was named winner of the journalism award in the Local Impact category for his series of reflective, illuminating stories that covered the South Florida food scene.

Among them: “Farm to Chapel,” which focused on Moses Kashem, a young Miami-born man of Indian and Muslim descent who started an organic farm at St. Simon’s Episcopal Church in Westchester. Others included a story on a post-Hurricane Irma cookout in west Coconut Grove that fed impoverished locals, and a feature on Zak Stern, the secular Jewish baker who became the kosher king of Miami.

The James Beard Award is considered the Oscar for the culinary community. The foundation handed out its first awards in 1991 and Frías is the first food editor in South Florida for a major daily to win the Beard award in the journalism field.

(In 1997, writer Robert Andrew Powell of the Miami New Times won in the category of Newspaper Feature Writing without Recipes for his “Eat Early, Eat Cheap” feature.)

"A day later, it’s still surreal," Frías said Saturday. "I call myself a recovering sportswriter. For more than 15 years I covered athletes making millions of dollars and no one cared about their personal stories. Not really. It didn’t move people. But when I started writing about the people in our communities who feed us, people who take out a mortgage or a second mortgage to fulfill a dream of opening a restaurant or starting an organic farm at a church, that's when readers started to feel it and so did I.

"For the first time in my life, I’m writing about the community where I live, the city I grew up loving. And it’s such an honor and such a joy to tell the stories of my neighbors," Frías continued. "This city is fuel to me. It’s life. It’s personal. And that’s what makes winning an award that pays tribute to local impact — my neighbors — such an honor."

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