Maskot/Getty Images

The Vilcek Foundation is awarding $250,000 total. 

Maria Yagoda
April 06, 2018

The Vilcek Foundation, which honors the multi-disciplinary contributions of immigrants to the U.S., is offering sizeable prizes to immigrants currently working in the culinary arts.

Applications are now open for a $100k prize that will be awarded to a leading foreign-born chef, as well as three $50k prizes for mid-career immigrants working in food or drink – they can be cooks, bakers, vinters, coffee brewers, or even writers. This year’s jurors include Andrew Knowlton, Mitchell Davis, and F&W alumae Nilou Motamed and Kate Krader.

“The culinary arts are a medium through which culture is preserved, elevated, merged, and enriched,” says Marica Vilcek, cofounder and vice chairman of the Vilcek Foundation, in a statement announcing the prize. “For years, immigrants have been at the vanguard of culinary innovation, and we are pleased to recognize this rich body of contributions through the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise.”

The deadline for the application, which can be found here, is June 11. 

"It is more important than ever to remember how much our country owes to immigrants, past and present," said Rick Kinsel, the president of the foundation, to Food & Wine. "The Vilcek Prizes were not originally established with political motivation; they were conceptualized two presidential administrations ago—and first awarded in 2006—when to recognize immigrant accomplishments seemed almost too obvious. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Today, immigration is increasingly demonized and criminalized."

The labor and creativity of immigrants have always been essential to the food industry in America.

"So much of what we call 'American food' was brought here by immigrants over the centuries," he continued, "and some of the greatest chefs in America moved here from around the world – like Marcus Samuelsson, Dominique Crenn, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Nobu Matsuhisa, Roy Choi, Daniel Humm, Eric Ripert, April Bloomfield, Charles Phan, Ignacio Mattos and Michael Solomonov, and of course our previous prizewinner José Andres."

As Andrés put it in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, restaurants could not run without them.

"Immigrants, including Salvadorans and other Central Americans, make up more than half of the staff at my restaurants, and we simply could not run our businesses without them,” he wrote, addressing the current administration's January 8 announcement that nearly 200,000 Salvadoran refugees will have their Temporary Protection Status revoked. 

Past awardees of the Vilcek Foundation have included Yo-Yo Ma, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and José Andrés.