The James Beard Foundation’s ex-president, Leonard F Pickell received a prison sentence of 1 to 3 years earlier this week for stealing more than $1.1m from the culinary organization.

Pickell, 50, had pleaded guilty in January. He said he had used foundation checks to pay personal debts, had fraudulently accepted reimbursements and had taken petty cash.

The Supreme Court in Manhattan heard he had used foundation funds to renovate his New Jersey home, for travel, flowers, limousines and other unauthorized personal outlays.

Pickell, who had been president in 1995, resigned after disclosures that between 2001 and 2003 the foundation had not filed tax returns, could not account for more than a million dollars in revenue and was spending less than 1% of its revenues on scholarships for culinary students, The New York Times has reported.

The foundation is a nonprofit organization whose announced goal is to advance the culinary arts. Until the its financial condition became known, it ran the yearly James Beard Awards, now run by an independent board. A new board of directors of the foundation is still being formed, The Times reported.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York