The James Beard Foundation announced Tuesday that chef Emeril Lagasse would receive this year's James Beard Award for Humanitarian of the Year at the group's annual culinary awards festival in New York City on May 6.
A press release from the James Beard camp singled out the chef and TV star's establishment of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation in 2002 as particularly worthy of commendation, noting that the charitable organization had "granted over $5.3 million to children’s education and culinary arts programs in New Orleans, Las Vegas, and the Gulf Coast."
Lagasse issued a statement thanking the James Beard Foundation for the honor:
“I’m humbled and honored to receive the Humanitarian Award from the James Beard Foundation,” said Emeril Lagasse. “Over ten years ago, I founded the Emeril Lagasse Foundation with the hope of giving back by exposing young people to the culinary arts—especially those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Over the years we've stayed true to our core values of education, mentorship, passion, creativity, self-discipline. I'm incredibly proud of the work we've done, the lives we've touched, and I’m deeply grateful to my many friends who have contributed their support along the way. I look forward to continuing on this path for years to come.”
Lagasse first rose to prominence in the early '90s as the chef and owner of the acclaimed Emeril's restaurant in New Orleans. He subsequently opened over a dozen other restaurants around the country, starred in several successful TV shows and released a nationally-distributed line of prepared foods and sauces. He won his last James Beard Award, for "Best Southeast Regional Chef," in 1991.
Lagasse will be the 11th person to be named the James Beard Humanitarian of the Year. Past honorees, many of whom have not been chefs, include environmental writer Frances Moore Lappe and restaurateur Art Smith, former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey.