The prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants announced its ‘2022 Champions of Change’ winners on 25 April.
This is to recognise individuals in the hospitality industry, who have inspired the world with their positive actions towards those in need. The award that was instituted in 2021, will be given to two individuals and one pair this year. Among the winners is Koh Seng Choon, founder of Dignity Kitchen, which operates in Singapore and Hong Kong. Dieuveil Malonga and the pair of Olia Hercules and Alissa Timoshkina are the other winners.
This award is one of several special pre-announced awards, shared between 25 April and The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony, which is to take place on 18 July.
According to a statement issued 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 anything – from helping people in need to making the gastronomic sector better.
A look at the winners of ‘2022 Champions of Change’
Initiatives that support the specially-abled
Koh’s Dignity Kitchen is Asia’s first community food court managed by specially-abled people.
Based in both 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 believes that anyone with “disabilities is just differently-abled; look at their abilities, not disabilities.”
Through Dignity Kitchen, specially abled people and those who are underprivileged are trained to become hawker stall operators. The platform also helps provide food to the homeless, the needy and nursing homes as well. During the pandemic, Koh provided around a thousand meal boxes for those in need, every day in Hong Kong and Singapore.
He is also behind Dignity Mama and Dignity Meal. The former is a second-hand book shop managed by mothers and their specially challenged children, while the latter provides food security to the underprivileged.
Having studied engineering and business administration in the UK, Koh teaches entrepreneurship to MBA students and helps ex-inmates and pre-release prisoners with their entrepreneurial ambition.
Helping chefs in Africa
Malonga is the chef of Meza Malonga, a restaurant that he opened in 2020, in Kigali in Rwanda. He is also the founder of Chefs in Africa, an online platform, which he created in 2016 to help African cooks receive training, equipment and employment.
“Transmission is a key for a better future. I’m honoured to be named a Champion of Change and will continue to nurture the passion and talent of African chefs,” Malonga said in a statement issued by World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Over 4,000 African chefs, who are part of the Chefs in Africa platform as its members, get to connect with businesses, training centres and government through the programme.
Malonga trains young chefs as part of the programme and also helps them with English classes and scholarships.
According to World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the donation that he will receive from Champions of Change is aimed to help him move his restaurant to a bigger site in Rwanda. Also, to bring him closer to local farmers growing sustainable crops and expand his culinary programme.
UNICEF-backed initiative for the people of Ukraine
Olia Hercules and Alissa Timoshkina are London-based friends who launched #CookForUkraine, a food fundraising initiative for UNICEF in response to the war in Ukraine. The initiative aims to support children and families displaced by the war and enables Ukrainian families and their supporters to share recipes and their stories.
According to World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the initiative has helped raise around GBP 900,000 (USD 1,132,687) to date, by selling specific menu items and special dinners via collaborations with restaurants in London.
“From the very start, Cook for Ukraine was a long term project for us. While we hope with all our hearts the war will end soon, our work in raising awareness about the beauty of Ukrainian food culture and in supporting 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 left her job and turned to cooking. She is the author of the cookbook Mamushka.
Timoshkina is a Russian food critic, chef and cookery teacher. She combined her knowledge of cinema and love for cooking to create the cinema-supper club called KinoVino.
(Main and Featured images: 50 Best)