Matt Haley: a Restaurateur Extraordinary Beyond Food
When Matt Haley, the white-bearded Delaware restaurateur, died Aug. 19 of injuries suffered from a motorcycle accident in India, he was doing something that was almost typical for the kind of person he had become. It might have been extraordinary for almost anybody else.
Haley was traveling in India as part of a six-week journey through the northwestern part of the country and Nepal to continue one of many of his humanitarian efforts, planning to deliver stoves to villages in Nepal.
He was traveling with several other riders and international motorcycle expert Guarav Jani, when his cycle collided with a truck. He died of his injuries, while being taken by a medical jet to New Delhi.
The news of Haley’s passing shocked the restaurant world in the region and just about anybody that knew Haley and his story, which was one of redemption and giving back to the community from the get-go. Haley went from being a man with a prison record and addiction problems to one of the most successful restaurant owners in the area and was considered a culinary ambassador and philanthropist. With 25 operations in four states, he traveled as a speaker preaching the gospel of giving back.
As a result of his many efforts and a successful business which became Matt Haley Companies, he was given the 2014 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award.
An article by Delaware Online quoted him as saying, “I’m a member of the most compassionate, caring industry in the world. There’s no other industry that would have been there for me. Everybody shut their doors on me when I got of prison 20 years ago." Haley was a part of numerous charitable organizations, including La Esperanza, the Georgetown, Del., community service agency, that helps Spanish-speaking immigrant workers.
Haley's restaurants in Rehoboth and all over the region employed approximately 1,000 people during the summer, grossing around $50 million in revenue. He was a well known figure in the Washington, D.C., restaurant and culinary community. The National Restaurant Association of Washington, D.C., recognized him this year for his humanitarian efforts.