Chef Matt Haley, who owns and operates SoDel— a restaurant group with seven restaurants including BlueCoast and Fish On, has won this year's James Beard Humanitarian Award. For Haley, he is all about furthering education—both with food and kids, and is known throughout the food world for his philanthropic efforts. He founded the Global Delaware Fund to help disadvantaged children, and raised enough money to build a school in Nepal. He has also been working locally with Delaware legislators to bring healthier food and better agriculture to Delaware. And just this past November, Haley visited Nicaragua to work with the Barrio Planta Project, an education initiative created to empower low-income children and adults.
The list of Haley’s achievements both in and out of the kitchen goes on.
“Matt’s efforts, both on a local and global scale, are helping to educate disadvantaged children and improve the agricultural conditions of countries around the world,” said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. “His story and charity are an inspiration and we’re excited to see what Matt will continue to do for the culinary world in the future.”
Haley came from humble roots himself, and discovered a passion for food in his 30’s during a stint in drug rehab. He learned to cook there as a vocational skill, and began working up the culinary ladder of success to where he is now. This may have been an inspiration for one of Haley’s newer projects, where he is working on a program to teach culinary skills to the incarcerated in Delaware.
“Someone was there for me when I thought I was incapable of being helped,” said Chef Haley of his desire to help others as much as he can. “I truly believe that the only way to keep what good I have in my life is by giving it away.”
Haley will be honored at this year’s James Beard Foundation awards on May 5th.