The National Restaurant Association today honored Ethiopian sisters Berekti and Akberet Mengistu, owner-operators of Mesob restaurant in Montclair, N.J., with its 2011 Faces of Diversity American Dream Award.
The award celebrates members of the restaurant and foodservice industry who have embraced diversity and inclusion at their own business operations and achieved the American Dream in the process. National Restaurant Association presented the awards during its 2011 Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.
“The restaurant industry is one of the most diverse industries in the United States, and we are celebrating that by honoring these individuals and companies with our 2011 Faces of Diversity awards,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “The Mengistu sisters’ resilience and hard work resulted in the achievement of the American Dream – owning their own restaurant – while serving their community at the same time. These two women exemplify the best of our industry and the many opportunities it provides.”
The Mengistu sisters witnessed the horror of the Red Terror political campaign in Ethiopia during the late 1970s and eventually immigrated to the United States. For the last seven years, they have successfully operated Mesob, their Ethiopian restaurant in Montclair, N.J. Berekti handles the business operations while Akberet serves as its chef.
The sisters are as committed to giving back to their community as they are to ensuring their restaurant’s success. They sponsor race/walks for charity, contribute to health and wellness events and also work in their local soup kitchen.
The National Restaurant Association, in partnership with PepsiCo Foodservice, created the Faces of Diversity awards program in 2007. It highlights diversity in two categories — the American Dream Award and the Inspiration Award. The American Dream Award honors individuals of diverse backgrounds who, despite hardship, have succeeded through hard work and determination. The Inspiration Award recognizes a restaurant company or organization that has exhibited leadership and vision through its advocacy of diversity and inclusion.
The Association recognized three American Dream Award recipients, including the Mengistu sisters, and an Inspiration Award winner. In addition to the award, a $2,500 scholarship was given to a student in their respective communities.
In addition to the Mengistu sisters, the winners of the 2011 Faces of Diversity award are Amporn Vasquez, executive chef of Pizza by Elizabeths in Greenville, Del.; Richard Castro, a 20-unit McDonald’s franchisee based in El Paso, Texas; and The Culinary Institute of America with San Antonio-based private-equity firm Silver Ventures Inc. For more information about the Faces of Diversity awards program, visit www.restaurant.org/diversity.