Matt Haley, 53, who owned a chain of mainly seafood restaurants in Sussex County, Del., and was honored by the James Beard Foundation this year for his humanitarian work, died of injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash Monday in India.
Haley's business partner, Scott Kammerer, told the News-Journal's Patty Talorico that Haley was driving in the mountains near Leh, India, when his bike collided with a truck. He was taken to a remote hospital, unconscious, but died during a medical flight to New Delhi.
The News-Journal says he was starting a six-week trip through northwestern India and eventually Nepal, where he planned to deliver stoves to a Nepali village.
Haley was with about eight or nine other motorcycle riders and international filmmaker and motorcycle expert Guarav Jani, the paper reported.
The Beard Foundation, in honoring Haley in May, began its profile about him this way:
"Twenty years ago, a chef at an Alexandria, Virginia, catering company took a chance and hired Matt Haley—an ex-con, recently out of rehab, and a survivor of childhood abuse. 'He probably shouldn’t have hired me,' recalls Haley, 'but he was loving, kind, and compassionate and took the time to work with me and teach me. There are so many people along the way, people who didn’t turn their back on me. If they had, where would I be today?'
"Now the owner of seven restaurants in Delaware Beach resort towns as well as of Plate Catering and a foodservice management company (all under the Matt Haley Companies umbrella brand), chef and restaurateur Haley credits his success to his 23 years of sobriety plus countless helping hands.
"As for his JBF Humanitarian Award—in recognition of his local and international efforts to help disadvantaged children—Haley believes 'a thousand people deserve a piece of this. Awesome people who believed in me until I learned to believe in myself.'"Lindsey Jacona, who worked her way up from waitress to controller of Matt Haley Companies, says, 'All the help he got led him to where he is now, where he’s always wanted to be. I feel he’s always trying to pay that back or pay it forward.'
"The result: personally and through Matt Haley Companies, Haley gives up to $200,000 a year to nonprofit initiatives, and in 2011 he founded the Global Delaware Fund (GDF) to provide goods and services to at-risk children and children in challenging circumstances, both in Delaware and around the world."