The World’s 50 Best Restaurants academy grants three chefs the Champions of Change award
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants academy has announced the three winners of Champions of Change, a new award which highlights members of the hospitality sector who were able to create positive change in the midst of the unforeseen circumstance throughout the pandemic. As the sector rebuilds and remodels itself with a greater focus on inclusivity and long-term sustainability, this initative recognises and celebrates individuals who have used this period as an opportunity to create significant change in their respective communities. A substantial donation will be made to each of the winners’ causes, allowing the recipients to continue their work and supporting long-term progress in the restaurant and food sphere.
Kurt Evans of Down North Pizza, Philadelphia
The first of this year’s winners is Kurt Evans who is the co-founder of Down North Pizza, a “mission-led for-profit restaurant” in Philadelphia, US. He exclusively employs formerly incarcerated individuals and provides them with culinary career opportunities and a fair wage. In addition to slinging Detroit-style pizzas, he aims to mitigate recidivism and end mass incarceration in the long-term. Evans is the chef and activist behind the successful End Mass Incarceration dinner series, where families who have been impacted by mass incarceration come together with lawmakers and diners to engage in conversation about prison reform over a multi-course meal. Evan’s is also the co-founder of Everybody Eats Philly, a collaborative team of black chefs leading the fight against food insecurity in the city – an initiative born out of the pandemic. The chef will use the Champions of Change donation to help fund his dinner series as well as to further the work that is being carried out to provide free meals and essentials to those in need.
Viviana Varese of Viva, Milan
Viviana Varese, one of the view few women in Italy to receive a Michelin star for her Milan-based restaurant Viva, has also been selected for the award. She is an LGBTQ+ and inclusivity campaigner, following her own personal experiences of discrimination, Varese is also part of the non-profit association Parabere Forum, aiming to empower women in hospitality. As a result of the pandemic, the Italian chef reopened Viva in Spring 2021, at the same time as her new restaurant W Villadorata in Sicily, and held a strong focus on staff inclusivity in regards to gender, race, age and sexuality. In addition to employing and training farmers over the age of 60 who have lost their jobs, she collaborates with suppliers who employ people with disabilities to make her plates and pottery. In autumn 2021, Varese intends to open a new gelateria ice cream shop in Milan and is specifically recruiting survivors of domestic abuse to staff the operation. She will use the reward to support this new retail project, which will provide much-needed employment opportunities to vulnerable women.
Deepanker Khosla of Haoma, Bangkok
When the pandemic hit Thailand, Deepanker Khosla, an Indian chef based in Bangkok, turned his restaurant Haoma – which is staffed largely by migrants – into a soup kitchen for out-of-work Bangkok residents. He raised funds to make meals with his campaign, “No One Hungry”, where his staff prepped free meals for the homeless and were able to receive food for themselves and their families as well. Khosla employs people who often lack citizenship from Myanmar and Nepal and he was able to retain all of his staff successfully despite the impact of the pandemic. The restaurant has also received a three-star certification from the sustainability organisation Food Made Good and is on its way to becoming zero waste by 2022. This chef will use the funding to create and staff a full-fledged kitchen for his project, providing meals to thousands of people in need.
William Drew, director of content for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, says: “We are thrilled to recognise Kurt, Viviana and Deepanker with the first Champions of Change awards. Their passion and fortitude in creating positive change in the hospitality sector is humbling and we can’t wait to see how they will use these donations to further their outstanding projects. We are honoured to salute the work they are doing and the example they are providing to the food world and beyond.””
The editorial unit
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021 awards are sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna and will be hosted in the city of Antwerp in Flanders on 5th October 2021.