By David Ngo
Jul 19, 2021
AFTER MORE THAN A YEAR of periodic lockdowns, many hospitality workers across Southeast Asia are feeling the economic brunt of the global pandemic. In an effort to help combat the hardship that so many are currently facing, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants has announced a new initiative to celebrate and support local heroes in the restaurant industry who have been making a positive impact. Champions of Change, presented in partnership with S. Pellegrino, honors three such movers and shakers with substantial contributions to their respective causes.
One such change-maker is Deepanker Khosla, the chef at Haoma, a fine dining restaurant in Bangkok that provides employment opportunities for Burmese and Nepalese migrants. Khosla has long been an advocate for both sustainability and equity; his restaurant is on track to reaching zero-waste status by 2022 and received three-star certification by the sustainability organization Food Made Good. When the pandemic struck, he launched No One Hungry, a campaign in which he raised funds to pay his staff to prepare meals for displaced workers and the homeless. All of his staff received meals for themselves and their families. The program allowed him to keep all of his staff on the payroll.
Courtesy of Haoma (4)
“I believe that every human being has the right to have access to nutritious meals and drinking water,” Khosla tells me. “With the advent of COVID-19, the gap in our society has become more and more evident. So many people have lost their jobs and migrant workers have struggled to even get a basic meal each day. I decided to step up and am currently helping out.”
Even though the situation in Thailand has improved in certain regards, Khosla still sees an enormous need for the program moving forward. The country’s wealth gap remains dangerously wide and the situation for those at the margins of society is still precarious.
“We have served over 120,000 meals since the pandemic started. We wish to keep going with the donations coming in from Champions of Change,” Khosla says. With the funds provided by this award, he intends to build a dedicated kitchen for No One Hungry in order to expand the program’s reach and enact durable, lasting change. By investing more resources now, he believes he will be able to help Thailand during this difficult recovery period.
Another Champions of Change winner for 2021 is Kurt Evans, who co-founded Down North Pizza, which provides employment and professional training for formerly incarcerated individuals in Philadelphia. The prison system in the U.S. ranks among the most extensive in the world and former inmates, even those who were charged with minor, non-violent offenses, often struggle to find employment for the rest of their lives. Evans intends to use the funds he received to finance his End Mass Incarceration dinner series, in addition to providing meals and basic living essentials to those in need throughout Philadelphia.
The third winner is Viviana Varese, chef at the Michelin-starred Viva restaurant in Milan, who has fought for LGBTQ+ rights and representation within the industry. She plans to use her donation to open a gelateria that employs, trains and supports former victims of domestic violence.
“We are thrilled to recognize Kurt, Viviana and Deepanker with the first Champions of Change awards,” said William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in a statement. “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 honored to salute the work they are doing and the example they are providing to the food world and beyond.”