The prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants announced its 2022 “Champions of Change” winners on April 25. It is about recognizing people in the hospitality industry who have inspired the world through their positive actions towards those in need. The award which was instituted in 2021 will be awarded to two individuals and a couple this year. Among the winners is Koh Seng Choon, founder of Dignity Kitchen, which operates in Singapore and Hong Kong. Dieuveil Malonga and the duo Olia Hercules and Alissa Timoshkina are the other winners.
The award is one of many special prizes announced in advance, split between April 25 and the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony, which is due to take place on July 18.
According to a statement released by World’s 50 Best Restaurants, each of the winners will receive a “substantial donation” from them for their respective causes. These are related to everything – from helping people in need to improving the gastronomic sector.
A look at the ‘Champions of Change 2022’ winners
Initiatives that support people with disabilities
Koh’s Dignity Kitchen is Asia’s first community food court run by specially disabled people.
Based in Hong Kong and Singapore, Koh opened his first Dignity Kitchen in Singapore in 2010 at the age of 50. The second was opened in 2019 in Hong Kong.
He thinks that everyone with a disability simply has different abilities; look at their abilities, not their disabilities.
Through Dignity Kitchen, people with disabilities and disadvantaged people are trained to become hawker stall operators. The platform also helps provide food for the homeless, needy and nursing homes. During the pandemic, Koh has provided around a thousand box lunches to people in need every day in Hong Kong and Singapore.
He is also behind Dignity Mama and Dignity Meal. The first is a second-hand bookstore run by mothers and their particularly disabled children, while the second ensures food security for the poorest.
After studying engineering and business administration in the UK, Koh teaches entrepreneurship to MBA students and helps ex-convicts and pre-convicts with their entrepreneurial ambition.
Helping Chefs in Africa
Malonga is the chef of Meza Malonga, a restaurant he opened in 2020, in Kigali, Rwanda. He is also the founder of Chefs in Africa, an online platform he created in 2016 to help African cooks receive training, equipment and employment.
“Transmission is the key to a better future. I am honored to be named a Champion for Change and will continue to nurture the passion and talent of African chefs,” Malonga said in a statement released by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
More than 4,000 African chefs, who are part of the Chefs in Africa platform as members, can connect with businesses, training centers and government through the program.
Malonga trains young chefs under the program and also helps them with English lessons and scholarships.
According to World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the donation he will receive from Champions of Change is to help him relocate his restaurant to a larger site in Rwanda. Also, to bring it closer to local farmers growing sustainable crops and expand its culinary program.
Initiative supported by UNICEF for the Ukrainian people
Olia Hercules and Alissa Timoshkina are London-based friends who started #CookForUkraine, a food fundraising initiative for UNICEF in response to the war in Ukraine. The initiative aims to support children and families displaced by war and allows Ukrainian families and their supporters to share recipes and their stories.
According to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the initiative has raised around GBP 900,000 (USD 1,132,687) to date, selling specific menus and special dinners through collaborations with London restaurants.
“From the start, Cook for Ukraine was a long-term project for us. While we hope with all our hearts that the war will end soon, our work to raise awareness of the beauty of Ukrainian culinary culture and support those affected by the war will continue. And this wonderful award is a very important first step towards creating a new foundation,” the duo said in a statement.
Hercules was born in Ukraine and is a former journalist, who quit her job and turned to cooking. She is the author of the cookbook Mamushka.
Timoshkina is a Russian food critic, chef and cooking teacher. She combined her knowledge of cinema and her love for cooking to create the supper-cinema club called KinoVino.
(Main and Featured Images: Top 50)