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National Restaurant Association - 3 industry stars share ideas on diversity

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3 industry stars share ideas on diversity

As Black History Month continues, we asked three influential African-Americans in our industry about diversity and how we can be more inclusive. Here’s what renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson, Brinker International’s Kevin Williams and restaurateur/entrepreneur Adenah Bayoh said.

Marcus Samuelsson, celebrity chef, New York City

“For a long time, I’ve felt there’s been a lack of diversity — of women and people of color — in professional kitchens. To me, that’s a little strange because the people who taught me the most about cooking were Edna Lewis and Leah Chase, both women of color. There are more opportunities now than there were 10 years ago, and organizations like C-CAP and the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program are helping the next generation of African-American chefs and entrepreneurs. But, I’m constantly thinking about what we — what I — can do to truly transform lives, to change things a little and give these young talents the training and skills they need to land meaningful jobs in our industry.”

Kevin Williams, Brinker International, Dallas

“Diversity is about bringing thought leadership forward from different perspectives. One of the biggest challenges for me is I’m often in a room where I’m the only person that looks like me and feel like I’ve got to be ‘that’ voice. You might feel like you’re on an island, but it’s not co-workers or anyone making you feel that way. They may not understand your thoughts or perspective because they’ve never been in your shoes. I don’t let that silence my voice. It would be easy to sit back and say I’m not sharing because others won’t understand. That makes me want to talk even more!”

Adenah Bayoh, Liberian refugee, IHOP franchisee

“There are greater opportunities for African-Americans now than in the past, but some challenges remain. Access to capital is a significant barrier. The industry is already high risk so financing is difficult anyway. It’s even more so for African-Americans, regardless of their creditworthiness. Also, many black American restaurant owners are first-generation entrepreneurs. I think they could benefit from more mentoring opportunities from the industry. Nevertheless, I’m optimistic about the possibilities for greater diversity going forward.”

February is Black History Month. Learn more about diversity in the restaurant industry with our partner, the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance.

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