Faces of Diversity

Past Winners


  • Adenah Bayoh, Founder, Adenah Bayoh & Company dba IHOP (Irvington, NJ): As a young girl, Adenah Bayoh found her life completely devastated when a civil war broke out in her native country of Liberia. At 27, she bought her first IHOP franchise, making her one of the youngest franchisees in the IHOP network. Through hard work, grit and drive, Adenah is living the American dream as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in her home state of New Jersey.
  • The Abi-Najm Family, Owners, Lebanese Taverna (Arlington, VA & Washington, DC): Dany Abi-Najm traveled to the United States with his family in 1976 to escape the civil war in Lebanon. They spoke little English when they arrived in the United States, but that did not block this hard-working family. They got their first jobs the day after they arrived. Dany and his brother worked as busboys, and their father took odd jobs in Arlington, VA. In 1979, they purchased a local restaurant and opened the original Lebanese Taverna. The entire family worked hard to make their restaurant a success and personally welcomed the community into their new establishment. Forty years later, the family now owns five restaurants, four cafes, a market and an airport location with plans to open several more locations. Their company now employs hundreds of people and is still operated by Dany and his siblings, David, Dory, Gladys and Grace, as well as their mother, Marie.
  • Francisco "Paco" Vargas, Owner, Rudy and Paco Restaurant & Bar (Galveston, TX): Francisco “Paco” Vargas left Nicaragua for the United States in 1978 to escape the Nicaraguan Revolution. He spoke very little English but had the business card of a man named Mitchell he had met years earlier who told him, “Call me if you ever come to America.” He called and was given a job as dishwasher and cook at the famed Houston Plaza Club. Paco was hard working and always eager to learn, and he quickly moved up through the organization. In 1996, he partnered with Rudy Teichman to open his own restaurant, the Rudy and Paco Restaurant & Bar. The venture was a success and was chosen as one of the top 100 restaurants in America by OpenTable.


  • Anil Yadav, CEO, Yadav Enterprises (California & Texas): When he was 17 years old, Yadav emigrated from India to San Francisco, sharing a small house with his parents and his seven siblings.  In 1984, Yadav managed to land his first restaurant job as fry cook in a Jack in the Box. Yadav now runs a multi-concept, San Francisco-based company with more than 350 restaurants, including 231 Jack in the Box locations in Northern California and Texas, 73 TGI Friday’s, 37 Denny’s, 10 El Pollo Locos, nine Corner Bakery Cafes, and five Sizzler restaurants.
  • George Wasai, General Manager, Legends Hospitality (Dallas, TX): George Wasai is the director of food and beverage for Legends Hospitality and the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Now in his 28th season with the Dallas Cowboys organization, Wasai came to the United States from Ghana with his parents at the age of 14.
  • Michaela Mendelsohn, Owner and Chief Executive, Pollo West Corporation (California): Mendelsohn founded TransCanWork, a non-profit organization that partners with the California Restaurant Association to create safe spaces for transgender individuals and to help others achieve their full potential. “Over the past five-plus years, we have hired more than 40 transgender employees, and 25 percent are on the pathway to management,”  said Mendelsohn. 



  • Roshara Sanders, Chef de Cuisine, Compass Group Flik Hospitality (Bridgeport, CT):  Following her service in the U.S. Army, Roshara Sanders spent three years at the Culinary Institute of America. In 2015, she competed on the Food Network’s “Chopped,” where she won the $10,000 prize and donated all of her winnings to No Kid Hungry.
  • Raveen Arora, Owner, The Dhaba India Plaza (Tempe, AZ):  Featuring Punjabi cuisine, Raveen Arora’s Dhaba restaurant and Indian marketplace takes guests on a cultural journey.  Born in India, Arora came to America in 1981 and became a successful restaurateur and community leader. 
  • Farouk Diab, Franchisee, Wienerschnitzel (Sacramento, CA):  As an 18-year old immigrant from the Middle East, Diab had dreams of a better life. He came to the U.S. to study engineering but took a job as a Wienerschnitzel janitor to make ends meet. Forty-one years later, he is Wienerschnitzel’s leading franchisee with 21 stores.


  • Archna Becker, Founder/Owner, Bhojanic (Atlanta): Archna Becker arrived in the U.S. from India at the young age of 11. Three years later she began her career in the restaurant industry as a drive-thru worker at a quick service restaurant. She continued to work various industry jobs for another decade before pursuing a career as a business executive. Becker soon realized her passion was in cooking, opening a catering business in the early 90s and a full-service restaurant a few years later. Today, Becker continues to give back to her community, by serving on the Georgia Restaurant Association Board. She has employed more than two dozen Bhutanese refugees and has an intense training program to help them learn English and facilitate their transition to the U.S.
  • Taylor Hoang, Owner, Pho Cyclo Café; Founder and Executive Director, Ethnic Business Coalition (Seattle): Taylor Hoang is an entrepreneur and leader in the Asian and business communities of Seattle. She is the Executive Director of Ethnic Business Coalition, a nonprofit committed to the long-term growth, sustainability, and success of immigrant and minority-owned small businesses in Washington. Her commitment to Seattle’s minority community is unwavering and she consistently volunteers, mentors and advocates for aspiring entrepreneurs in the Asian community. As an outspoken advocate for ethnic business, Taylor was awarded the 2015 Crosscut Courage Award for Business, which honors local leaders whose personal and professional dedication is making the region more vital, equitable and inclusive. Taylor also operates five retail restaurants, Pho Cyclo Café, which she started at the age of 28, and a successful catering business, Lavender Jade Catering. Taylor also started a mortgage brokerage firm specializing in securing loans for minorities while attending University of Washington and created several businesses in Vietnam, including one to help small coffee farmers facilitate international export.
  • Titus Perkins, Executive Kitchen Manager, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group (New Orleans, La.):  Raised by his handicapped grandmother from the age of nine, and becoming a father at age 16 did not stop Titus Perkins from becoming a community leader who now spends time mentoring and encouraging the young men and women he hires to make a positive impact on their communities. The path to his current role as executive kitchen manager at the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group began with a job at the New Orleans Fair Grounds during high school, and soon after as a dishwasher at Ralph Brennan's BACCO. A quick learner, Perkins advanced through the ranks, mastering all the kitchen positions. He was also a general manager for the Sonic Corporation for one year, before landing his current position. Through hardship and adversity, Perkins was able to achieve his American Dream by establishing a career that allows him to support his family and give back to the community.


  • Nafees Alam, CEO, DRG Concepts (Dallas, Texas): Alam, who came to the U.S. from Bangladesh at age 17, entered the restaurant industry right out of college as an executive with Waffle House. As a leader, he joined DRG Concepts, a restaurant operations brand that has helped revitalize Downtown Dallas. Alam and his staff have been incredibly involved with various charities, including: The Bridge, a homeless recovery center; Vogel Alcove, which provides free childhood development services for children in poverty; and 6 Stones, a non-profit that provides a variety of services to help those in need.
  • Carlito JocsonCorporate Executive Chef, Yard House (Irvine, Calif.): Jocson emigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines at a very young age. While studying biochemistry in college, he worked at a restaurant to earn extra money — eventually leaving his pre-med program to become a chef. Over the last 30 years, Jocson has enjoyed a successful career, including 16 years as Yard House’s executive chef and an original partner. He continues to be involved in organizations that help educate younger generations about Filipino culture and feeds up to 150 homeless and at-risk families every week.
  • Pamela Patton, Patton’s Restaurant & Catering, (Des Moines, Iowa): Raised in rural Georgia with her seven siblings, Patton was the first member of her family to graduate college. Her passion for cooking began in rural Alabama under her great grandmother, Gussie Hayes, at the age of ninePatton loved to cook, and began inviting Drake college students to her home after church, offering them a home cooked meal and leftovers to carry them over for a few days. The number of students she helped grew from 25 to 100. While working in corporate America in Des Moines, she started a catering business while still feeding the college students. Some graduated and were transitioned into employment at the company where she worked. In 2010, she secured a loan from the Targeted Small Business (TSB) when banks were not lending monies, and her business opened in 2011. Patton wanted to establish her business in a diverse neighborhood and currently has a diverse staff, reflective of the neighborhood she serves.



  • Griselda Barajas, president and CEO, Griselda’s Catering (Sacramento, Calif.): Barajas immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 12 years old and spent countless hours in the restaurant of Ninfa Laurenzo, the godmother of Tex-Mex cuisine, where her parents worked. Inspired to enter the restaurant industry, Barajas began her own catering business in 1993, but turned to blackjack when the business struggled to help make quick money to cover expenses and pay her employees. Today, Barajas has abandoned gambling and owns and operates a thriving catering business, as well as Griselda’s World Café in the Capitol building in the heart of Sacramento. She has received several small business awards, including Business Woman of the Year from the Sacramento and California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
  • Mansour Ghalibaf, owner, Hotel Northampton (Northampton, Mass.): In 1979, Ghalibaf, an Iranian immigrant, was attending college and working in a restaurant to pay his tuition when he was told he would be deported back to Tehran — at the height of the Iranian Revolution. Along with those closest to him, Ghalibaf endured a tense month under scrutiny from government officials and was on the brink of homelessness before he secured a visa to remain in the U.S. His status no longer in jeopardy, Ghalibaf pursued the American dream with dedication: he completed his college degree, got married and continued to excel in the hospitality industry. His persistence and passion for the industry allowed him to work his way up from the kitchen to a hotel owner. After serving as general manager of the historic, 106-room boutique Hotel Northampton, Ghalibaf purchased the hotel and has since grown sales from $2 million to $7 million. Ghalibaf has been named Restaurateur of the Year by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association and was inducted into the Massachusetts Hospitality Hall of Fame.
  • Jahangir Kabir, district supervisor, White Castle System, Inc. (Woodside, N.Y.):The ninth of 10 children, Kabir immigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh in 1990 and, with the help of an older brother who was already in the country, was hired by White Castle as a cook. In just six months, the very determined Kabir learned English, so he could begin to interact with White Castle’s customers, and both front- and back-of-house operations. Kabir’s strong emphasis on customer service led to his promotion to general manager after just four years. He has since grown to district supervisor, overseeing nearly 200 employees. All eight of his restaurants have received an award of excellence from White Castle. In addition to his success in the restaurant industry, Kabir has a relentless commitment to giving back to his community and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration degree at Wilmington University in Delaware, where he plans to write his dissertation on customer satisfaction in the restaurant industry.