Writer Sheila Lukins - Biography

November 2011

Sheila Lukins changed the way Americans—perhaps American women, most profoundly—look at cuisine. Coming of age in a social niche of women as passive entertainers and hostesses, Lukins boldly challenged the parameters of the American pantry. As a young woman, wife, and writer (Lukins was Food Editor at Parade magazine), she quickly realized that her passion for food (nurtured officially at London’s Le Cordon Bleu and unofficially—but significantly—during a year in Paris) could help bridge the gap of intimidation between the American public and good food. Opening The Silver Palate, her specialty food store in 1977, Lukins gave brick and mortar presence to the passion that would be her life’s legacy.

Put simply, Sheila Lukins cared about the way Americans cooked and ate—who else would write The U.S.A. Cookbook? Of course, she’s probably best known for her Silver Palate and The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, which brought the philosophy of the store to bookshelves and American kitchens everywhere. But her contributions weren’t just Manhattan and bookshelf bound. In May 1997, United Airlines presented their new coach class menu based on Lukins’ recipes; her culinary influence literally went airborne. (Add that to the seven million plus copies of her published books and you’ve got some serious influence).

Throughout her career, Lukins has received many awards for her contributions to the food world, including the Business Woman of the Year for Gourmet Takeout from New York University's Small Business Administration; three awards from the National Association of Specialty Food Trade; and the New York Association of Cooking Teachers Life Achievement Award. In 1992, Lukins was inducted into the James Beard Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America and The Silver Palate Cookbook was named to the James Beard Foundation's Cookbook Hall of Fame. In 1998, the U.S.A. Cookbook was nominated for a James Beard Award and in 1998, Inflight Food bestowed an Honorary Award upon Lukins based on her contributors to the in-flight service industry. Before her passing in August of 2009, Lukins was a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier, The American Institute of Wine and Food, The James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Cooking Professionals. Awards, associations, and publications aside, the plain fact is Lukins changed the way we look at food and her legacy in the American pantry will endure forever.