Haley’s legacy giving a ‘hand up’ to prisoners


As much as restaurateur and philanthropist Matt Haley left the area a legacy of great food, he also left behind him a tremendous legacy of helping people help themselves.

A former drug addict who spent time in prison himself, Haley not only created numerous jobs but offered the same kind of helping hand for aspiring culinary workers that he himself had used to remake his own life — just one part of the work that made him the James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year in 2014.

Shortly before his death that same summer, Haley started work on an effort to bring culinary training into Delaware’s prisons, aiming to offer hope and a solid future to those who had ended up there. This week saw that effort come to fruition, as the future site of the Matt Haley Culinary Training Center at Smyrna’s James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) was dedicated, with Gov. Jack Markell, Haley’s family and others gathering to celebrate his spirit and his legacy.

“For the men and women in our criminal justice system, having an in-demand skill is their ticket to a better life, and Matt Haley knew that better than anybody,” Markell said. “Matt’s inspirational story of redemption, hard work and selfless service inspired us to make the investment in our prison culinary training program.

“Naming this facility for him will ensure that generations of men who come through these walls are reminded of the impact of his life, experience support in learning a marketable skill and feel empowered to forge new paths for their lives.”

Matt understood that part of creating a better future for everyone is helping people who are struggling to find a better future for themselves as individuals.

Offering one man a hand up, just as was once offered to him, is something Matt Haley knew could lift up the world. Seeing his work bring new hope for so many lives shows just how bright our future could be, all because of Matt.