File this one under psychic wealth.
More eyes than those of the gaming industry will track Ed Evans’ 2024 journey. He guides an arc of philanthropy linking casinos with the community.
On a high-profile scale, Evans will embody his “People to Watch” designation by helping the Cordish Gaming Group expand into Louisiana in 2024. People there will see what many already know.
There’s a passion sparking the company’s director of diversity, equity & inclusion to a world beyond gaming. Evans traded his company role of culinary expert and the feeding of gaming customers to one of a multimillion-dollar community outreach, on behalf of casinos.
“When you see the impact of what we do, when you see people hug you with tears and thank you with compassion and emotion, you can’t put a price on that,” Evans says. “There is no spreadsheet for this. We live by the right motto of being responsible corporate neighbors wherever Cordish plants its flag.
“When I was younger, I never thought in a million years that a casino company would have this type of community impact to help people who might not ever become gamblers,” he says. “I am thrilled with the difference we make.”
The community relations process is multi-faceted.
Evans says every senior director is mandated to sit on at least two nonprofit boards. Ideas ultimately filter through this body, sparking the blending of efforts between corporate and city leaders.
That’s how projects like the Severn Center in Maryland, 30 years in the making, come to fruition. Cordish contributed $12 million to the facility, which includes a state-of-the-art Boys & Girls Club, gymnasium and Teen Club. Opened in 2023, it has a Senior Activity Center, and educational programs and classes in art, history, crafts, computer use, dance and physical fitness.
There are no comps, bonus codes or bus trips to a casino location.
But Evans, representing Cordish, did hand out 400 turkeys just before Thanksgiving. He believes many people will thrive if given a chance. That’s why the 50-year-old shares the chance he had for a better life 30 years ago.
“I grew up in the inner city of Baltimore, with a single mother and in poverty,” Evans recalls. “Fortunately, there was something out there to help me, which was the culinary world.”
Evans jumped into that space and later opened the door to followers. He launched a culinary academy at Cordish for those who could otherwise not afford it. Four of the students became executive chefs at Cordish, he says. All the students were given an alternative to the streets.
“Hurt people hurt people,” he asserts. “Healed people heal people. Of all the things I’ve done, my greatest career highlight is all the chefs I have produced in my 26-year career in that area.”
It’s been an extensive road.
A veteran chef and Baltimore native, Evans joined Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland as director of culinary operations in spring of 2015. His culinary career spanned more than two decades, including oversight of culinary operations at the casino with a particular focus on expanding food and beverage offerings and enhancing quality.
He could have spent decades in this industry, perhaps become a celebrity chef. Emeril Lag-Evans? Nah, this is a better calling.
Evans loves the fact he’s cooking with gas, and that it has nothing to do with food.