Two of the Cape Region’s best-known entrepreneurs were hobnobbing among the culinary elite at the annual James Beard Foundation awards in New York City May 5.
“It was surreal and really cool,” said Chef Matt Haley. “It was fun.”
Haley won the Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year award for charity work, funding schooling, locally and globally, for children in challenging circumstances and promoting economic sustainability in Nepal.
Just before his acceptance speech, he found himself in a room with Martha Stewart and renowned chef Mario Batalli. He said the bright lights and celebrities could be overwhelming, but he tried to stay in the moment.
“It was one of the more amazing nights of my life,” Haley said. “I’m so grateful to be a part of it and represent our state.”
Haley's work in Nepal began when he decided to fund the education of a needy Nepalese child and then grew to include building schools, educating orphans, and establishing a coffee farm to encourage sustainability. In 2011, Haley founded the Global Delaware Fund to help children globally and also in Delaware. Since then, the Global Delaware Fund has raised more than $250,000 in charitable donations, helping to build a school for 80 children in Nepal, with a matching donation to Delaware organizations that serve children.
Also representing Delaware was Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione and his wife, Mariah. Calagione was up for an award for Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional.
“It's always a fun night, and you get to see a lot of great chefs and inspiring stories,” Calagione said. “I was very proud of Mariah when she was asked on the red carpet whose dress she was wearing, and she didn't know. We enjoy a night out like this, but we do feel a bit like coastal fish out of water.”
The award for Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional went to craft beer brewer Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing.
“I am happy that a brewer won this year, and Garrett has done a lot of great work in the beer and food communities,” Calagione said.
Haley gave credit for his award to his coworkers and the Cape Region community. He said he hoped the award could be an inspiration for people who came from troubled backgrounds such as he did that they can do anything they want in life.
After the awards, the two Delaware entrepreneurs had praise for each other.
“I am very proud of Matt and so impressed with the altruistic work he is doing. I think he gave the best speech of the night,” Calagione said.
“I’m so proud of Sam, and I was happy to be there with him. I’ve learned a lot from him,” Haley said.
Reflecting upon the evening, Haley said the award made him think of his mother, who always felt like she had failed him when Matt struggled with substance-abuse problems in his 30s. But winning Humanitarian of the Year, Haley said he feels like his mother has come full circle.
“It’s nice knowing that she knows she succeeded,” he said.