Delaware restaurateur Matt Haley has died after being critically injured in a motorcycle accident in India.
Haley died last night en route from Leh, India, where the crash occurred, to a larger hospital in New Delhi. Haley, the 2014 recipient of the James Beard Humanitarian Award, was on a six-week humanitarian mission through northwestern India and Nepal.
Haley’s business partner, Scott Kammerer, released a statement on the Matt Haley Companies website that read, “The entire team at the Matt Haley Companies is incredibly saddened by this huge loss.”
An earlier statement released shortly after the crash sounded optimistic, characterizing the award-winning chef and humanitarian as being in critical-but-stable condition. Haley, Kammerer said, was wearing a helmet at the time of the incident.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell released a statement Wednesday morning immediately after hearing the news.
“Carla and I are devastated by the loss of our friend, Matt Haley,” Markell said. “We joined Matt just last month at two of his restaurants and were inspired by his plans to bring his message of making the most of second chances and the importance of a healthy recovery to people across Delaware and the country. He was a world class humanitarian and we will miss him greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Haley, who was in his early 50’s, struggled with drug addiction in the past. In fact, Haley’s love for cooking flourished in a re-entry program following a prison stay.
When he got out, Haley started at the bottom in the food industry, working his way up the ladder. He opened his first restaurant, Bluecoast in Bethany Beach, in 2001.
The Rehoboth Beach-based Matt Haley Companies now runs eight restaurants in Delaware beach towns.
“I’m actually still stunned at the news,” said Carrie Leishman, head of the Delaware Restaurant Association. “We’re saddened, we’re shocked and he’s somebody that is going to be missed tremendously.”
Leishman described Haley as a serious restaurateur, a passionate foodie and a person who was dedicated to his community and to helping people in Delaware and abroad.
“He’s a really complex individual. It’s hard to put your thumb on describing Matt Haley. There is really no one else like him,” Leishman said.
“It’s devastating news for all of Delaware, but in particular, the Sussex County community where his caring, giving presence was most clearly felt,” Congressman John Carney, D-Del, said in a statement.
Both of Delaware’s senators offered their remembrances as well.
“Matt got a second chance at life and vowed to seize it,” Delaware Sen. Chris Coons said. “He was a reminder to all of us that we should embrace life and live it fully and graciously and gratefully every single day.”
“Delaware and the world lost a great humanitarian last night,” Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del, said. “I was both touched and impressed by his servant leadership and efforts to bring hope to so many both here and abroad.”
In an interview with WHYY this past winter Haley said, “I am living proof that you can be anything you want to be, you can having anything you want to have and the only person that can stop you is you.”
In lieu of flowers, Kammerer has asked that donations be made to the Global Delaware Fund, the charity that Haley founded.
WHYY interviewed Haley this past winter shortly after the chef learned he was selected as the James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year. The story ran on First on April 11, 2014.