Kiki Louya, "Top Chef" Contestant, Announced as First-Ever Executive Director of the Restaurant Worker's Community Foundation

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Kiki Louya, "Top Chef" Contestant,  Announced as First-Ever Executive Director of the Restaurant Worker's Community Foundation

New York City (May 18, 2021) – Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, a national advocacy and action nonprofit founded by and for restaurant workers, announces today that Kiki Louya will lead strategy, new initiatives, and day-to-day operations as its first-ever Executive Director. Louya joins the organization after a year of tremendous growth and will be pivotal in steering the future of both RWCF and an industry emerging from crisis.

“From the moment I learned of its work and commitment to building restaurant worker power and higher-functioning workplaces, I knew I had found a special place in Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation,” says Louya. “I am honored to serve as the inaugural Executive Director, and I look forward to fully committing myself to building on the foundations laid by countless RWCF volunteers and advancing strategies for a more equitable industry for all.”

Over the past year, RWCF raised over $8 million, including $7 million for the Restaurant Workers COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund and $1 million for RWCF’s core mission to advance systemic change in the hospitality industry. In March 2021, RWCF launched a Racial Justice Fund to combat white supremacy and anti-Blackness in hospitality.

With new executive leadership, RWCF is poised to deepen and expand some of its most important initiatives, including the Restaurant Futures Loan Program, the Restaurant Managers Network, Restaurant Workers Speakers Bureau, #RWCFTalks and other community-building and organizational expansion efforts. Now, leaning on Louya's lived experience, industry leadership, and nonprofit fundraising power, RWCF will seize this moment to change the structural and cultural issues that have led to low wages, poor job mobility, high turnover, and worker burnout in hospitality. 

"RWCF engaged in a five-month national executive search talking with leaders with extensive nonprofit management and restaurant management experience, and Kiki is particularly special in having an amazing mix of experiences we were looking for," says John deBary, RWCF cofounder. 

To get by as a young restaurant worker, Louya had to supplement her kitchen wages by working in nonprofits, and as her culinary résumé grew, so did her commitment to social justice, fair wages, and community building. At her Detroit restaurants, Folk and The Farmer's Hand, Louya championed equity and better pay for her employees for which The New York Times named her one of “16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America.”

In the nonprofit sector, Louya has raised over $200 million for organizations including the New York Public Library, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and Vista Maria. She also worked as Economic Development Manager at Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation in Detroit, where she implemented pandemic relief programs for hundreds of small businesses. 

Now, after departing her restaurants and competing on season 18 of “Top Chef,” Louya has turned her full attention to building worker power and transforming the hospitality industry with RWCF.

RWCF also recently added two new members to its board, maintaining strong representation of leaders working in restaurants and those holding nonprofit management expertise. Those new board members are Pim Techamuanvivit, owner of Nari and Kin Khao in San Francisco, and Desi Mullin, a New York City hospitality consultant. RWCF’s all-volunteer working board has, for the past three years, shared the work of leading this organization and will continue to be deeply engaged in supporting new staff.  


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