A Time to Shine
Three Delawareans are honored by the James Beard Foundation.
For a small state, Delaware got some big nods in this year’s annual James Beard Foundation Awards, often called “The Oscars of the Food World.”
Chef Matt Haley, owner of eight Sussex County restaurants, was named the prestigious 2014 Humanitarian of the Year Award. Sam Calagione, president and founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, was one of five finalists in the Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional Award category. And though Bryan Sikora didn’t make the finals, the chef/owner of La Fia Bakery + Bistro + Market in Wilmington was selected as a semifinalist in the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category.
After Haley received his medal at May’s fancy, black-tie James Beard ceremony in New York, he shared his gratitude on stage for his adopted home. “I want to thank the state of Delaware,” the D.C. native told the audience. “Delaware is a fantastic place.”
At the end of the speech, Haley received a standing ovation from the elite crowd that included stars of the industry. Previous recipients of the Humanitarian Award include Emeril Lagasse and Paul Newman.
Haley’s personal story is compelling. He battled drugs and alcohol for years and ended up serving time in prison. After his release, he turned to cooking for vocational training. He opened his first restaurant, Red Fin, in Bethany Beach in 2001. The name was later changed to Bluecoast Seafood Grill.
In addition to his restaurants, which he runs under the umbrella company SoDel Concepts, Haley, a cancer survivor, is involved in myriad philanthropic groups, including his own Global Delaware Fund. He formed the charity to help at-risk children, particularly in his home state and Nepal.
On the beer front, Calagione has been a leader in the American craft brew movement since 1995 when he opened Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Now, he is an international figure along with being an author and TV personality known for the show “Brew Masters.”
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This was the fourth time Calagione was a finalist in the wine, beer, and spirits category. He lost out this year to another brewmaster: Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Oliver later told a beer blogger that the award was actually a win “for all the 3,000 American breweries making some of the most amazing beverages the world has ever seen.” —Suzanne Loudermilk