Michaela Mendelsohn is a 2018 California Faces of Diversity Award Winner
(Los Angeles, CA) – The California Restaurant Association Foundation (CRAF) has named Michaela Mendelsohn as one of the two state winners of the 2018 Faces of Diversity Award, CRAF announced today. The winners will be recognized at the California Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Day at the Capitol on April 24.
Mendelsohn, the Owner and President/CEO of Pollo West Corp, has received national attention for her exhaustive efforts to make workplaces inclusive to transgender employees. Mendelsohn, who has come out as a transgender woman, began her first restaurant job at the age of 16, washing dishes. She later operated coin-op and vending machines before going back to her restaurant roots to pursue a career as an El Pollo Loco franchisee.
“What an honor to represent California and the LGBT community in accepting this award,” Mendelsohn said. “I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to educate the restaurant industry on the value of embracing diversity.”
Mendelsohn opened her first store in 1988 and currently owns nearly a dozen locations of El Pollo Loco in the Los Angeles area, where her stores have created a path for transgender workers who have faced discrimination at prior jobs they’ve held. Her businesses have created more than 500 jobs in their communities. But the biggest impact she’s had is as an outspoken trans activist. Mendelsohn has been a member of the board of the Trevor Project, which works to prevent suicide in LGBTQ+ youth and founded TransCanWork, which has helped make transgender workers feel welcome and safe in businesses throughout California. Mendelsohn was also recruited by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to join his Workforce Development Board in 2017.
“Honoring people like Michaela is exactly what this award was intended to do,” CRAF Executive Director Alycia Harshfield said. “The Faces of Diversity Award acknowledges the immense contributions and impact of an individual on our industry, and in this case, doing so while carving out a path that didn’t previously exist.”
The restaurant and foodservice profession is one of the most diverse in the United States. Restaurants employ more minority managers than any other industry. Women represent 55 percent of the restaurant workforce, and more than a fourth of all foodservice managers are foreign-born. The Faces of Diversity Awards program honors individuals in the restaurant industry who have realized the American dream through hard work, determination and enterprise. In addition, Ms. Mendelsohn is a national recipient of this award by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.
“One of the most impressive things about Michaela is that she just doesn’t quit,” said California Restaurant Association’s Vice President of Public Affairs, Sharokina Shams. “While most employers would be content to provide job opportunities within their own businesses, Michaela went a step further and has reached out to other companies and industries to ask them to join her efforts in hiring and training trans individuals.”
About the California Restaurant Association Foundation: a non-profit that empowers and invests in California's current and future restaurant workforce. Founded in 1981, CRAF supports the restaurant community through emergency assistance grants for restaurant workers facing a hardship, job and life skills training for 9,000 high school students each year, and scholarships.