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Fair Kitchens Leader – Contest Winners

We are thrilled to announce the 3 winners of the “Fair Kitchens Leader” contest, hosted in cooperation with Fair Kitchens. To learn more about the contest, click here.

Juan Emilio Villaseñor (León, Mexico), Paul Benallick (Vancouver, Canada), and Tasos Mantis (Athens, Greece). Congratulations, chefs!

In the next few weeks, we will be traveling around the world to film a day in their lives and create a few short videos telling their stories as well as the stories of some of the incredible team members who work with them. We’ll also be bringing some awesome gifts and gear with us, provided by Chefwear, True Cooks, Chef Spoons, and Spiceology. For now, here’s a bit of info about these chefs and why they were chosen.

Juan Emilio Villaseñor told us “In our kitchen, we respect each other as equals. I always try to make my kitchen “bullying free”. There are no verbal or physical aggressions in my kitchen. We also do not yell at each other. We always try to keep learning from each other.” At his restaurant, La Cocinoteca, located in León, Mexico, they pair traditional Guanajuatan recipes with progressive presentation, positioning themselves both as a local favorite, and as a window into the region for visitors staying at the boutique Hotel Emiliano, in which they’re housed.

Paul Benallick, of the Vancouver steakhouse “Black + Blue” was surprised and humbled to be nominated, much less chosen as a winner. He says he didn’t start out trying to be a Fair Kitchens Leader. “When I first became the chef of a restaurant, I did not know any better. I treated the cooks as I had been, pushed them for long hours, expected them to do more and more each year for less all in the name of the food and trying to be the best… Then one day I realized that I was not raised in kitchens, I was raised by my Mother and Father who taught me to be a better person than I was being. So I have worked hard to not leave the cooks who have worked for me with the same physical and emotional scars that I have from working in kitchens.” We think he has a powerful story to tell as a chef who has had to confront his own behavior to help his employees.

Tasos Mantis is chef of the 1 Michelin Star Athens Restaurant “Hytra“, where he’s created an award-winning menu of unprecedented takes on traditional Greek flavors, all served with a view of the Acropolis on a nearby mesa. For him, being a Fair Kitchens Leader is part of a larger, more holistic process. “Knowledge never stops and all have something to learn from each other. That is why while I train and teach other cooks in the kitchen, I also make sure to make them feel confident and empowered. In my approach to be a role model and a mentor to others, I have always tried to promote respect between each other and to the ingredients, because the way you treat your people and your raw materials is mirrored in the presentation of your final product.

What is Fair Kitchens all about? Watch the video above to learn more and to see an example of the type of videos we’ll be creating with our winning chefs.

All 3 of these chefs were nominated without their knowledge by someone working under them who thought that they deserved to be honored. More than 100 such nominations came in, and these three are far from the only ones who seemed deserving of this prize, however, after an arduous judging process, we are pleased to announce them as the 3 winners of our Fair Kitchens Leader contest. We can’t wait to meet them and their teams, taste their food, and then share their stories and their inspirational example with the world.