A few of this year’s James Beard Awards finalists and past winners share their favorite charities and why they give back.
Tony Mantuano, 2005 Best Chefs in America winner
“We have supported the Leukemia Lymphoma charity for many years, and it is especially close to my heart because my father passed away from leukemia. We have just recently started to support Pilot Light with Chef Joe Flamm spending time in and becoming deeply involved in schools, which is their main mission. Pilot Light is so important for the Chicago community, and we’re so proud of Joe for his dedication to the program. He is very involved and spends a lot of time at South Side CPS schools.”
Rick Bayless, Seven-time James Beard Award winner including Outstanding Chef, Humanitarian of the Year and Outstanding Restaurant
“I’m super proud of our Frontera Farmer Foundation, which helps support small family farms in the Midwest. Since the organization was founded in 2003, the board has given away nearly $2 million in capital development grants. All of that money helps these farmers build a better food system.”
Carrie Nahabedian, 2008 Best Chefs in America winner
“I personally support a number of organizations along with our restaurants, NAHA and Brindille and my cousin and business partner Michael Nahabedian, for the main reason to make a strong difference to those less fortunate.
Now, more than ever, people right in our own community of Chicago are finding it difficult to put good, healthy, nourishing food on the table for themselves and their family. Having to make a decision between food, medicine and life is something that no one in 2017 America should be having to make.
The statistics are staggering, but with love, compassion, assistance and acceptance, food deserts are becoming green with fresh wholesome food. I believe that no one should suffer for the basic necessities of life ever … the idea that chefs are helping to make a difference with their actions, financial support and influence is helping make great strides in the fight against hunger.”
Kevin Boehm, 2016 and 2017 Outstanding Restaurateur finalist
“As a parent, there are many things we often take for granted. One of which, being able to communicate with our children, is this beautiful evolving process from first words to real conversation. There are many parents of autistic children who have their first communication with their children only after time spent with the amazing professionals from Easter Seals. If that doesn’t move you, nothing can.”
Boehm sits on the board of Easter Seals and 826CHI.
Vivian Howard, 2017 Book Award for American Cooking finalist and 2016 Outstanding Personality/Host winner
“I had just left for my book tour when Eastern North Carolina endured the second 500-year-flood in 20 years. Our region is rural, economically challenged and relatively isolated as it is, so a flood of this magnitude means a lot of things for us … none of them good. I wanted to do something to raise both money and awareness for my region in a way that required a type of engagement from the restaurant community that was different than your typical fundraiser. The fish stew rescue pointed chefs and charity-minded home cooks to a unique dish from Eastern Carolina and encouraged them to put a spin of it that meshed with their own personal cooking style. The initiative raised more than 40k and shared a piece of Eastern Carolina culture with a new audience.”
RJ Cooper, 2007 Best Chef Mid-Atlantic winner
“I am a supporter of Zac Brown’s Camp Southern Ground for kids. I met the band several years ago in Nashville. I learned about the camp in its infancy and watched it morph into what it is today and love that it is still growing. I try and be involved with as many events that center around kids and teaching them about healthy local foods that aren’t from a can or package as much as possible. It’s humbling to watch a child eat a pea right off the vine when they have never seen it before.”
Ken Oringer, 2017 Outstanding Restaurateur finalist, 2001 Best Chef Northeast
“There are so many great charities out there but one that I’m really excited about is Wellness In the Schools (WITS) for Boston Public Schools. As a father of two, I see first-hand how imperative it is for kids to have healthier options in the environment where they spend their time learning and growing. Not only does WITS make it possible for kids to have healthy, home-cooked meals but they fset eset set up amazing fitness and environmental education programs.”environmental education programs.”