The James Beard Foundation has announced that Father Gregory Boyle, S.J., founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, has been named the recipient of the 2016 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year award. 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. The “Queen of Creole Cuisine,” Leah Chase was named the recipient of the 2016 James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award. Father Boyle and Chase 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.”
“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.”
Based in Downtown L.A., Homeboy Industries is 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 since then former enemy gang members have worked together, learning both business and baking skills. Its success created the groundwork for additional social enterprises with the Homeboy brand, including Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Diner at Los Angeles City Hall, Homeboy Food Truck, 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’ 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 Magazine 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.
The first of Homeboy's social enterprises, Homeboy Bakery originally opened in Boyle Heights as a training ground for aspiring bakers. Supplying fresh breads, pastries, and specialty goods to the walk-up counter at Homegirl Cafe, Homeboy Farmer's Markets and restaurants throughout Los Angeles, the Bakery is a place where former enemies bake bread side-by-side, learning the art and science of preparing breads, pastries, cakes and much more. The Director of Operations is Herbert Charles Fingerhut II, a seventh generation Master Baker.
Located at the corner of Alameda and Bruno in Chinatown, Homegirl Café serves breakfast, lunch and Saturday brunch, featuring founding Chef Pati Zarate’s innovative menu of contemporary Latin fare and fresh and baked goods from Homeboy Bakery. Homegirl’s newest location is a grab-and-go concept at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). 100% of Homegirl’s proceeds benefit comprehensive intervention and wraparound services for thousands of former gang members whose lives are being transformed.
The Homeboy Diner is located on the second floor of City Hall in Downtown L.A.. Look for the bright orange tables and chairs in the rotunda area where you can enjoy a snack, light lunch or restful break. The Diner offers a daily selection of sandwiches, salads, cookies and other desserts, coffee, tea and other drinks direct from Homegirl Cafe and Homeboy Bakery.
Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and further the James Beard Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire. Each award category has an individual committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program. All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes.