Matt Haley Companies donates equipment to culinary arts program for offenders

The Matt Haley Companies recently donated $4,500 worth of new kitchen equipment and catering equipment — from spatulas to mixing bowls to chafing dishes — to the Sussex Community Correction Center in Georgetown, which offers a certificate program in the culinary arts to the offender population. Instructors and educators from Polytech’s Adult Education program have been contracted to teach the initial certificate class.

“A program similar to this one turned my life around,” said Haley, who learned the culinary arts while in a rehabilitation program. “Equipped with the right skills, determination — and help of some very supportive people — I worked my way up through the ranks in the restaurant kitchens.”

His company owns eight restaurants, a catering company, a hospitality management division and a hospitality consulting business.

The center’s certificate program runs through Sept. 26. Students are required to complete 320 hours of training, including the completion of 18 hours of remediation in math and reading, and 222 hours of practical skills and performance testing, which includes the restaurant industry’s standardized ServSafe exam. They must also complete an eight-hour internship at a local restaurant.

Enrolled students were sentenced by the courts to either the Level IV work release program or CREST, a Level IV residential treatment program that’s focused on behavior modification.

“Matt Haley was instrumental in assisting with all aspects of initiating the culinary program,” said Sgt. Sandy Dale of the Sussex Community Corrections Center. “He continues to be an active supporter, offering to volunteer his time by conducting lectures, demonstrations, and giving seminars and motivational speaking to the offender population.” Haley helped select equipment and offered suggestions to help shape the course curriculum.

With the list of needed kitchen equipment in hand, Business Office Manager Catherine Baker contacted Haley to see if he had any used equipment to donate. Haley took the list and ordered new items from his suppliers and delivered them to the facility.

“All the items delivered were excellent commercial-grade quality, with the majority being aluminum and stainless steel,” Dale said. “This massive delivery exceeded what we had ever anticipated receiving.”

Among the items: new knives, including 10 chef knives and 10 offset utility knives; roasting pans, stockpots and colanders; mixing bowls and salad bowls; sheet trays; cutting boards and hotel pans; measuring cups and spoons; and ladles, whisks, tongs, slotted serving spoons an scrapers. Even an egg-slicer was in the mix.

“We donated the tools that will help them prepare a catered meal,” said Scott Kammerer, chief of operations for Rehoboth Beach-based Matt Haley Companies.

The company has also offered staff to teach the offenders and offer insight into the industry.

“Some of the people in the program might help us with our catered events,” Kammerer said. The Matt Haley Companies employs about five people in work-release programs each year to work in its restaurants’ kitchen.

“There were people in my life who gave me the chance to succeed; they believed in me,” said Haley, who received the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Humanitarian of the Year Award. “I’m determined to do the same thing for others.”