Awards and Honors

Denver Soul Food Scholar Adrian Miller Nabs Another James Beard Nomination

Adrian Miller poses with his 2014 James Beard Award for his book, Soul Food.
Adrian Miller poses with his 2014 James Beard Award for his book, Soul Food. Adrian Miller
Author Adrian Miller, who's known as the Soul Food Scholar, was in a board meeting for his day job with the Colorado Council of Churches on April 27 when the congratulatory texts started coming in. "It feels really good," he says of being named a 2022 James Beard nominee for his book Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue.

Miller won a James Beard Award in 2014 for his first book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. "The first time, I didn't catch [the announcement] live either," he recalls. "They did a livestream, and right when it got to my category, it crashed."
click to enlarge Black Smoke debuted on April 27, 2021. - COURTESY OF UNC PRESS
Black Smoke debuted on April 27, 2021.
Courtesy of UNC Press

For his second book, The President's Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washingtons to the Obamas, Miller was ready and waiting for an announcement that never came. But the third time was the charm. "Maybe I should just not wait," he jokes.

Not only is his book nominated in the Reference, History and Scholarship category, but Miller played a part in three other works on the list of honorees. He appeared in the 2021 Netflix Series High on the Hog, which is nominated in the Documentary/Docuseries Visual Media category. In the U.S. Foodways category, Miller contributed an essay on the cookout to Bryant Terry's Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes From Across the African Diaspora. He was also profiled in another nominee: The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food, by Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn.

The news came on a particularly symbolic day: the one-year anniversary of Black Smoke's release. "It's its book birthday. What a cool present," Miller notes.

He'll travel to Chicago in June for the awards ceremony. Back in 2014, that year's awards ceremony was in New York City, and Miller was there to hear that Soul Food was the winner. "It was a complete surprise," he says. This time, he's going to start practicing an acceptance speech as well as his "I'm happy you won" face.

In Chicago, he'll be joined by representatives of Colorado's nominees for the 2022 James Beard Chef and Restaurants Awards. The Little Nell in Aspen is a finalist for its wine program, and five local chefs swept the Best Chef, Mountain category: Dana Rodriguez (Work & Class), Caroline Glover (Annette), Eric Skokan (Black Cat Farm Bistro), Cody Cheetham (Tavernetta) and Jose Avila (El Borrego Negro).

Black Smoke was also recently nominated for a Colorado Book Award. "It's an honor to be able to tell these stories of African American barbecue — men and women who have largely been ignored and underappreciated," Miller concludes. 
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin