Denise Cerreta is Humbled at This Year’s James Beard Awards
ach year, at The James Beard Awards, the culinary community takes the time to recognize restaurant leaders and visionaries who are committed to the food industry. Often referred to as ‘The Oscars’ of the restaurant world, the country’s top culinary talent is showcased and applauded in categories ranging from chefs to books and journalism, to broadcast media, restaurant design, as well as lifetime achievement and humanitarian awards.
The Humanitarian Award is given to an individual or organization in the food realm that has given selflessly and worked tirelessly to better the lives of individuals and society as a whole. This year, it went to a humble and deserving woman who has dedicated her life to serving meals to a community of people who do not always have the means to provide for themselves and their families- One World Everybody Eats Founder, Denise Cerreta.
This year, the televised ceremony was hosted by Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on May 1. It was a memorable night for all, especially Cerreta, as she accepted this wonderful honor for her good works through One World Everybody Eats. Cerreta says, “Receiving the James Beard Award for me personally was very humbling.” With a little research, she found that Paul Newman, one of her inspirations in the humanitarian field, had received the same award in his time. She tells Sauté that, “I believe my heart was touched and opened just a little but more by Paul, and to be receiving the same award brought me to tears.”
This organization is an international nonprofit dedicated to creating food security through its network of pay-what- you-can community cafés. It runs on the platform that each café will serve appealing and nutritious, locally sourced meals with dignity to everyone that comes in. It is important that each visitor feels as though they are worthy of being served a real meal in a place where they are welcome. Not only does it improve the confidence and self-worth of the patrons, but it also brings the community together to increase food security, something that Cerreta believes to be an important success of the organization. Not to mention, One World Everybody Eats’ cafés have served over 2 million meals, 30 percent being to those of lesser means, at 60 community cafés in America- a true success for humanity.
Cerreta’s vision for the organization was to change communities and their perspective on hunger. One World Everybody Eats began in 2003 as a small café in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Cerreta noticed that many of her patrons were having trouble making ends meet. The idea for the organization came to life when she allowed her customers to pay what they could for their food. With this model comes the belief that food security can be increased at the local level, and with nearly 50 million Americans food insecure, this is an enormous step. Not only have the cafés helped communities in America, but over 50 cafés are also in the planning stages in six other countries around the world.
But for Cerreta, it is the littlest moments and experiences that continue to make the organization a success. She recounts a time when her whole journey was summed up in a moment of experiencing the “pure connection of humanity.” When a young man came in to eat at the original café, he dished himself out a meal, and Cerreta handed him a freshly baked piece of cake with a warm smile. She remembers how “he looked at me with so much love and I felt so much love in the act of giving that I will never forget it.” It is because of her heart for each individual that she comes into contact with and her unwavering commitment to the organization that she was rightfully recognized as this year’s Humanitarian of the Year.
As she was thanked for her service at this year’s award ceremony, presenter Art Smith, who is a past Humanitarian of the Year, called Cerreta a “culinary superhero” for her work in creating a café environment “where all felt welcomed and left with full hearts and full stomachs.” We could not agree more, and after speaking with Cerreta, it is clear that her goal is to make sure that in this one world that we all are living in together, everybody is nourished and cared for.
If you would like to support One World Everybody Eats in their efforts to increase food security locally and globally, please visit their website at www.OWEE.org to donate and help their cafés thrive.