Chefs Who Give: The Ones Who Started Foundations

A three-part look at how chefs give back at home and around the country

Move On Up Mississippi hosts an annual costumed 5K run.

By owning a restaurant and opening the doors to the community, chefs are often at the forefront of seeing the changes in their neighborhoods. Not surprisingly, these interactions can spur a person into action to change their communities for the better.

Yesterday we looked at some of the events that chefs host for their causes. From music events to BBQ bacchanals, the events were all in good taste. Today, we’ll look at the organizations that chefs have put their names on to give back. A number of chefs have launched namesake foundations that are focused on the challenges they see in their neighborhoods. Here are six chefs who want to change the world by starting in their own backyards.

Barbara Lynch: The award-winning Boston chef formed the Barbara Lynch Foundation to empower the area’s youth through leadership development and resources to enrich their lives.

Emeril Lagasse: Founded in 2002, this long-running nonprofit looks to give back to the TV personality’s hometown of New Orleans. The organization has awarded more than $7 million in grant money to programs focused on nutrition, arts, and — of course — culinary education.

John Besh: In 2011, this TV chef and Louisiana native formed his foundation to protect the city’s important cultural — and culinary — traditions that were still struggling after Hurricane Katrina. Today, it provides scholarships, loans, and grants to locals who want to enact change in the Big Easy and throughout the state. 

John Currence: Frustrated of the lack of educational resources for kids in his home state of Mississippi, this James Beard Award winner decided to do something about it. He formed Move On Up Mississippi to inspire and provide funds for educational youth initiatives with the focus on health, well-being, and physical activity. For this year’s launch, the nonprofit organized a costumed 5K run and a series of dinners with big-name chefs where ticket proceeds were donated to the cause.

Mario Batali: Using his super-star power, the prolific chef and TV personality formed a foundation focused on children’s education and development. Its goal is to educate and empower children, encourage them to dream big, and provide them with the tools they need to succeed.


Rick Bayless: To help sustainable farms that serve Chicago restaurants, this Windy City chef formed the Frontera Farmer Foundation in 2003. Its mission is to promote nearby small, sustainable farms by providing capital development grants.