The James Beard Foundation announced last week that Leah Chase, renowned chef, author, and television personality has been named the recipient of the 2016 James Beard Lifetime Achievement award, and Father Gregory Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries, has been named the recipient of the 2016 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year award. The Lifetime Achievement award is bestowed upon a person in the industry whose lifetime body of work has had a positive and long-lasting impact on the way we eat, cook, and think about food in America. The Humanitarian of the Year award is given to an individual or organization whose work in the realm of food has improved the lives of others and benefited society at large. Leah Chase and Father Boyle will be honored at this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday, May 2, 2016 at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“We are very excited to honor these two outstanding individuals whose contributions to not only the food and beverage industry, but society as a whole, are boundless,” said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. “Both Leah and Father Greg have impacted the lives of so many people, and we know that their legacies will continue to inspire our community for decades to come.”
Known as the “Queen of Creole Cuisine,” Leah Chase is a chef, restaurateur, and TV personality from New Orleans. In 1946
she married Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr., and together they worked in his parents’ restaurant. With a shared vision they
transformed Dooky Chase’s, which was once a sandwich shop, barroom, lottery ticket outlet, and neighborhood gathering place, into a sit-down restaurant wrapped within the cultural environment of Creole cooking, African-American art, and jazz. In a town deeply divided by segregation, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, which is still open today, was one of the only public places in New Orleans where mixed race groups could meet to discuss strategy for the local Civil Rights Movement. The restaurant was the meeting ground for black voter registration campaign organizers, the NAACP, political activists, and countless others, and Leah Chase cooked for them all. Chase’s original dishes would help pioneer the Creole food movement, and her recipes for dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and fried chicken have gone on to become kitchen staples. Chase is also a patron of the arts, and her collection — displayed on the walls of her restaurant — was at one time considered New Orleans’s best collection of AfricanAmerican art. As a writer of two cookbooks and winner of countless food and humanitarian awards, Chase was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2010. “I am overwhelmed to receive such a prestigious award,” said Chase. “I never dreamt of receiving such an award for doing what I love to do: cook and serve others.”
The 2016 Humanitarian of the Year award recipient, Father Greg Boyle, S.J., is the founder and executive director of Homeboy
Industries, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world. As a Jesuit priest, Father Boyle has
dedicated his life to helping those in need. In 1986 he was appointed pastor of Dolores Mission Church in Los Angeles, at the
time the poorest Catholic parish in the city, located amidst two large public housing projects and the territory of numerous rival gangs. Father Boyle launched Homeboy Bakery in 1992 in the aftermath of the civil unrest in Los Angeles, and ever since
former enemy gang members have worked side by side, learning both business and baking skills together. Its success created
the groundwork for additional social enterprises with the Homeboy brand including Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Diner in Los Angeles City Hall, and a retail presence at farmers’ markets throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Every year more than ten thousand formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women come through Homeboy Industries’s doors.
They are welcomed into a community of mutual kinship and offered a wide variety of services, including employment
opportunities, legal help, and even tattoo removal. Among a wide array of notable accolades, Bon Appetít named Father Boyle
Humanitarian of the Year in 2007, and he was a featured speaker at the White House Conference on Youth in 2005 at the
personal invitation of First Lady Laura Bush. “I am honored and humbled by this recognition,” Father Boyle said, “but also heartened, because it acknowledges, as well, a community on the margins that has long been demonized. This award, then, imagines a circle of compassion outside of which no one is left standing.”