Irena Chalmers

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Irena Chalmers
Irena Chalmers photo.jpg
Born (1935-06-05)June 5, 1935
London, UK
Residence New York
Occupation Writer, Speaker, Mentor
Children Hilary Chalmers, Philip Kirshman

Irena Chalmers (born Irena Chalmers-Taylor on June 5, 1935) is an author and food commentator/essayist, teacher and culinary mentor. She is recognized as the pioneer of the single subject cookbook. Her life story unfolds to reveal an unlikely journey that led to becoming a James Beard Foundation: “Who’s Who” of Food and Beverage in America[1] 1988 award recipient.


In a career encompassing many overlapping skills and interests, Chalmers began her career as a nurse and midwife. After completing her graduate work at the Neurological Institute in Queen's Square, London, she moved to the United States in 1960 to teach Neuroanatomy and neurophysiology at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital Neurological Institute.

After returning briefly to London to attend the London Cordon Bleu School of Cookery, Chalmers decided to open her own cooking school first in Baltimore, MD, then in Greensboro, NC. She went on to become a gourmet shop owner, pioneer author of the single subject cookbook, awarding-winning publisher, restaurant consultant and mentor. Renowned for her wit and captivating insights, she continues to be a frequent commentator and keynote speaker on food and food trends at many food conferences. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Food & Wine, Gourmet, Gastronomica, Food Arts and Nation's Restaurant News. She also writes “The Last Word” column for Chef Magazine.

Chalmers is currently a faculty member at The Culinary Institute of America,[2] teaching Professional Food Writing and Gastronomy. She is a food essayist and commentator for WAMC/NPR Northeast Public Radio]],[3] and serves as a consultant, food blogger,[4] and mentor to many embarking on their culinary adventures.

Author and Publisher[edit]

In 1971, when faced with how to get rid of six fondue pots languishing in her cooking school/wine and cheese shop, La Bonne Femme, Chalmers demonstrated the 'fine art' of melting cheese. This cooking demonstration led to the publication of a 48-page Fondue cookbook, Chocolate Surprises cookbook and the creation of Potpourri Press.

Chalmers then wrote other specialty food cookbooks, including the first microwave cookbook for Litton, the first ice cream cookbook for Donvier ice cream machines and several cookbooks commissioned by Le Creuset. The most successful of these small books was Napkin Folding for the Lillian Vernon catalog, responsible for sales of more than one million copies. Estimated total sales of the small cookbooks exceeded seven million copies worldwide.

As an editor, publisher and packager, Chalmers has overseen and contributed to many award-winning titles, successful cookbook series and food guides, including: the ‘Round the World cookbooks (8 million copies sold); The Great American Cooking Schools 12-book series (designed by renowned graphic designer, Milton Glaser, winner of the Art Directors Club Award and eight Tastemaker Awards); the Books by Cooks 24-book series and the Creative Cook volumes. Chalmers was the first to publish the work of many American culinary leaders, among them Romanic & Classic Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum, American Food & California Wine by Barbara Kafka, Quiche & Pâté by Peter Kump and Christmas Feasts from History by Lorna Sass. She compiled The Food Professional’s Guide in association with The James Beard Foundation with a foreword by Julia Child.

Chalmers is the author of The Great American Food Almanac, American Bistro and The Great Food Almanac. These books were all winners of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Julia Child Award,[5] Her most recent title, Great Food Jobs 2: Ideas and Inspiration for Your Job Hunt[6] received a 2013 Gourmand Special Jury Award for excellence. Her prior Food Jobs: 150 Great Jobs for Culinary Students, Career Changers and Food Lovers[7] won the 2008 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for the Best Book for Food Professionals in the U.S. and later, the 2008 Gourmand World Cookbook Award—Best Book for Food Professionals in the World.[8]

Chalmers is a founding member and past president of the IACP,[9] a culinary worldwide organization of nearly 4,000 members from more than 40 countries. She is also a founding member and past president of Les Dames d'Escoffier International (LDEI).[10] LDEI is an invitation-only organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality whose mission is education, advocacy and philanthropy.

She has held a number of consulting roles at the restaurants, the Rainbow Room and Windows on the World. She worked closely for restaurant legend Joe Baum for 14 years. She has been a consultant for,[11],[12],[13] and Modern Maturity magazine, (today, AARP magazine). In addition, Chalmers has been a visiting professor at New York University and the New School for Social Research and an associate of the International Food Information Council (IFIC)[14] on Food Biotechnology and BIO: Council for Biotechnology Information Bureau.


Throughout her career Chalmers has been recognized with several distinguished awards including: Woman of the Year, New York University Center for Food and Hotel Management (1989) and 12 Tastemaker Awards for publications she has written or published. She has received the Honor of La Bonne Vie Champenoise Award and The Doctorate of Foodservice for Exemplary Service to the Food Service Industry. She is an Ambassador of The Culinary Institute of America.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Great Food Jobs 2: Ideas and Inspiration for Your Job Hunt (2013)
  • Food Jobs: 150 Great Jobs for Culinary Students, Career Changers and Food Lovers (2008)
  • The Great Food Almanac (1994)
  • Good Old Food-A Taste From The Past (1993)
  • The Working Family’s Cookbook (1993)
  • The Food Professional’s Guide (1990)
  • Irena Chalmers’ All-Time Favorites (1990)
  • Christmas Memories with Recipes (1988)
  • The Great American Christmas Almanac (1988)
  • The Great American Food Almanac (1986)
  • American Bistro (1986)
  • Beginner’s Book of Beautiful Food (1976)
  • The Confident Cook (1975)


External links[edit]