The city’s heavyweight champion for philanthropy, the United Way for Greater New Orleans, honored culinary entrepreneur Emeril Lagasse with their highest award at an elegant affair on December 4, 2008. The 2008 Alexis de Tocqueville Award Celebration, which recognizes exemplary leadership in community philanthropy, took place at the Sugar Mill, with Lagasse inspiring the event’s theme of “Spirit of a Champion, Heart of a Chef.” Local favorite Garland Robinette served as Master of Ceremonies, entertaining the nearly 700 guests in attendance. Cocktail attire-clad patrons enjoyed a live silent auction and fantastic food, and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser gave a touching tribute to the United Way. Tocqueville Society Chairwoman Kim Sport was on hand to congratulate the master chef, who has become one of New Orleans’ greatest ambassadors. The Tocqueville Society, an elite subset of the United Way, honors those individuals who give $10,000 or more annually to the organization. Lagasse’s own foundation, formed in 2002, is a partner of United Way, and through funding has created numerous activities and opportunities for New Orleans young people to realize their full creative and professional potential.