50 Best, the organisation behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, announced its Champions of Change 2023 – heroes of hospitality who are driving meaningful change for their communities and creating blueprints for a better food and drink sector.
Champions of Change winner Nora Fitzgerald Belahcen runs Amal in Marrakech, Morocco, a social enterprise that helps empower disadvantaged women. She opened the first Amal Centre in 2013 to train Arab women facing hardship – often single mothers shunned by society – in the culinary arts and associated skills. It now operates a thriving restaurant and catering business staffed by a mix of trainers and students, with 30 people graduating every eight months. The Amal organisation’s latest project is the Sign Language Café in Marrakech, which is staffed by deaf women and acts as a prototype for deaf-run businesses.
Fitzgerald Belahcen says: “I’m thrilled to win this award on behalf of all the women I have worked with and for whom gastronomy has been a life-changing path. I’ve long believed in the power of food to nourish and to heal, to bring us together and to change lives.”
The second Champions of Change accolade of 2023 is awarded to the Los Angeles-based duo of Othón Nolasco and Damián Diaz, who created non-profit food security project, No Us Without You LA, during the pandemic. It provides ongoing support in the form of food relief and advisory services to the families of undocumented immigrants working in the sector, who are not legally recognised as US citizens, and therefore cannot benefit from government assistance.
Nolasco and Diaz say: “Undocumented back of house workers are the heart and soul of the restaurant and bar industry, but are often treated as dispensable. No Us Without You LA offers food relief packages as a way to show that they are not forgotten. We are proud to feed those who have fed us for years.”
50 Best will make a financial donation to the winners’ causes, allowing the recipients to continue building their initiatives. The Champions of Change awards are among a number of special accolades that have been announced as part of the lead-up to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 event programme, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, which will culminate in an awards ceremony in Valencia, Spain on 20th June.