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National Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation Taps Detroit’s Kiki Louya as First Executive Director

The Detroit chef, activist, entrepreneur, and former Top Chef contender will lead strategy for the national advocacy nonprofit that assists restaurant workers

A woman wearing an apron, smiles, appearing to be cooking and holding a container in her left hand
Kiki Louya, a Detroit-based chef, takes the helm at RWCF with more than 20 years’ experience in both food and beverage and nonprofit management. 
Nick Hagen for The New York Times

Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, a national advocacy nonprofit, has tapped Detroiter Kiki Louya as its first-ever executive director.

The chef, entrepreneur, and activist will lead strategy, new initiatives, and day-to-day operations for the nonprofit founded by industry veterans. Her appointment ends a five-month national search.

Louya joins Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation after a time of tremendous growth for the foundation, and will help steer its future and an industry that is emerging from the pandemic. The foundation, which took shape in 2018, gained prominence for supporting frontline workers during the pandemic, providing aid in the form of zero-interest loans to restaurant workers, to other nonprofits helping industry workers in crisis, and to restaurant businesses. Thanks to an outpouring of support, the foundation raised $7 million for the Restaurant Workers COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund. In March 2021, RWCF launched a Racial Justice Fund, aimed at helping to create a more just and equitable hospitality industry.

Louya, who recently was a contestant on Top Chef: Portland, says she spent a lot of time thinking about what would come next. RWCF does “a lot of grant-making to really amazing nonprofits and their buckets really are around everything that resonates with me personally, including wage fairness, racial equality, gender equality, gender fairness, immigration reform, and all of these things that affect industry workers on a massive scale,” Louya tells Eater. “I think that this is a wonderful time to be with this organization, considering where the restaurant industry finds itself right now, which is at a point where meaningful change can occur and really should occur.”

As a fundraiser, Louya has raised more than $200 million for a roster of organizations, including the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, New York Public Library, and the Dearborn Heights-based social services organization Vista Maria. The resident of Detroit’s Rosedale Park also served as economic development manager at Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp., where she implemented pandemic relief programs for hundreds of small businesses.

The chef takes the helm with more than 20 years of experience in both food and beverage and nonprofit management. The former founder and chef at Folk and the Farmer’s Hand restaurants, Louya gained national attention for championing for equity and better pay for her employees. The New York Times named her one of 16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America in 2019. Louya is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Le Cordon Bleu.

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