"Top Chef" Star
You’re a leader in creating inclusive and safe workplaces with an objective to rethink restaurant leadership and culture. Tell us about this mission at Kann Winter Village.
Kann is designed as a fully 100 percent COVID-friendly, socially-distanced outdoor restaurant. We have 10 yurts, so each party gets their own yurt. We specifically created this experience for the pandemic, to be outside. As we know, restaurants shut down last March, and the restaurant industry is one of the hardest-hit industries … My heritage is Haitian, and Kann means sugarcane. It’s inspired by sugarcane vendors in Haiti who run down the street with wheelbarrows full of sugarcane, screaming, “Kann kale, kann kale.” That’s one of my earliest memories when I lived in Haiti as a kid … [This past year] we saw Black Lives Matter, and our industry also went through a huge reckoning. A lot of industry workers, people involved in the civil rights and social justice movements, restaurant workers and Blacks in America felt that restaurants were places where they didn’t feel safe and felt mistreated. I worked at a really big and busy restaurant, and I got criticized myself. I believe that we can fix anything through communication and effort. As I thought about what type of restaurant I wanted Kann to be, I knew that representation would be extremely important. I’m inspired by global BIPOC flavors. It’s something that I’m really passionate about, both eating, studying and learning about, so I really wanted the staff to represent that. The bulk of the issues coming up were from women who felt mistreated in the restaurant industry. It became abundantly clear to me that if I were to do a concept, I really wanted to tackle these issues head-on.