Along with awards for chefs and writers and restaurateurs, the James Beard Foundation each year gives out Lifetime Achievement and Humanitarian of the Year awards. Today, the foundation announced the 2016 recipients of these awards, and L.A.'s Homeboy Industries founder Father Greg Boyle, S.J., is being honored as Humanitarian of the Year. The Lifetime Achievement award will go to Leah Chase, a chef, restaurateur and TV personality from New Orleans, who owns and operates the legendary Dookie Chase's Restaurant.
According to a press release from the James Beard Foundation:
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 10,000 formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women come through Homeboy Industries’ 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,” Boyle says, “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.”
Both Chase and Boyle will be honored at this year’s James Beard Foundation Chef and Restaurant Awards on Monday, May 2, at Lyric Opera of Chicago.