BAM! A Celebrity Chef Dishes Out Grants To Support Children and Youth

"BAM!"

Got your attention? Good.

This catchphrase and interjection belongs to none other than Emeril Lagasse. The zany celebrity chef and restaurateur opened his first restaurant in New Orleans' Warehouse District. Soon, he started appearing on Food Network shows like Essence of Emeril and Emeril Live. For his efforts, Lagasse has amassed quite a bit a wealth, some $50 million by one estimate

That a chef can make that kind of money is another reminder of the earning power of celebrities in our current era—which, as we often point out, is driving celebrity philanthropy to an entirely new level.

(See our ever-growing guide to these donors, Glitzy Giving.)

Last decade, Lagasse and his wife Alden established the Emeril Lagasse Foundation to support children’s educational programs that inspire and mentor young people. What's Lagasse's recipe to improve outcomes for children and youth? Well, food, naturally. The charity supports nonprofits that "inspire and mentor young people through the culinary arts, school food and nutrition and important life skills programs." To date, the foundation has given away some $7 million in grants to children’s charities in New Orleans, the Greater Gulf Coast, and around the country. While Lagasse has made the Gulf Coast his adoptive region, Alden Lagasse is a Mississippi native. After spending time in New Orleans and New York, the family relocated to Florida, which also serves an important site of philanthropy.

The foundation is mainly interested in supporting organizations that connect food to healthy living, as well as address life skills development, childhood hunger, and arts education. Of course, food is a hot area of philanthropy right now, with many funders—including some big guns like the Kresge Foundation—working this space with an eye on affecting broader societal outcomes.

Lagasse, we should note, isn't the only the chef turned philanthropist. We've also covered the giving of Wolfgang Puck.

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The Lagasses, via their foundation, have supported organizations like Edible Schoolyard NOLA, Covenant House, and Contemporary Arts Center Summer Camp. The foundation partners with Lagasse's alma mater Johnson & Wales University to run the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) Culinary Arts program for high school students.

The Emeril Lagasse Foundation recently gave away more than $150,000 to select nonprofits. Grantees include: 

  • Second Harvest Food Bank—To continue supporting its Summer Feeding, Kids Café and School Pantry programs. Since 2010, the Lagasse Foundation has provided over 895,000 fresh, healthy meals to campers across the city to address the lack of food available to New Orleans and Acadiana school children in the summers.
  • Liberty’s Kitchen—To support its Youth Leadership Center and further expand programs that provide a path to self-sufficiency through life skills and workforce training for youth. 
  • Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center—To provide funding for a new kitchen at its recently expanded second location in Walton County, Florida.

The foundation also runs annual fundraising events like its signature outdoor food and music festival, Boudin, Bourbon & Beer, and its nationally recognized charity wine auction and gala dinner, Carnivale du Vin. This past November, these two events raised over $3 million for children’s charities.  

Per its contact page, interested and qualified organizations should mail a concept paper no longer than three pages. Expect the Lagasses to stay focused on supporting children and youth. Also look out for more charity work in Florida. In the Spring, the foundation hosted a benefit auction in Santa Rosa Beach that raised nearly three quarters of a million dollars for Gulf Coast charities. 

RelatedEmeril Lagasse Profile