This year’s “UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball” raised $1.7 million to provide the resources to get students to and through college.

Joined by nearly 1,000 businesses, civic and education leaders were Host Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Event Chairs Michael O. Smith, general manager of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans and Joel Vilmenay, president and general manager of WDSU-TV. Creole cuisine expert and James Beard Lifetime Award recipient chef Leah Chase received the Masked Award for being a trailblazer and work to secure better futures for the next generation.

Founder of the first Mayor’s Masked Ball and UNCF advocate, Ambassador Andrew Young delivered a tribute to Chase, with whom he worked closely during the civil rights movement. The City of New Orleans presented Young with a proclamation and recognized his 85th birthday.

The evening featured a VIP reception, a 2016 Nissan Maxima car raffle and silent and live auctions; student hosts came from Xavier and Dillard universities and dinner was provided by award-winning celebrity chefs, including: Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant; and James Beard Award recipients Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace, Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon and Pêche Restaurants and host chef Eric Damidot of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.

Chef John Besh spoke about the need to ensure equal opportunities for education for all students, and demonstrated the impact of his program “Chef Moves” and how it correlates with the work of UNCF.

Three performances highlighted the evening. The Royal Boys Choir, a group of young elementary students, brought the audience to their feet and to tears as they performed “Use Me” as a tribute to honoree Leah Chase. Grammy Award-winning entertainers, R&B group Kool and the Gang and PJ Morton, keyboardist for Maroon 5, kept the crowd dancing until the end of the night.


What: “UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball,” benefiting United Negro College Fund
When: Saturday, March 18
Where: Hyatt Regency New Orleans