India-Born Chef Vikas Khanna was among the Six Extraordinary Asians honored by Asia Society, NY for dropping everything to feed millions in India at a time of great need and suffering. Asia Society recognized six extraordinary honorees at the seventh annual 2020 Asia Game Changer Awards, a celebration of individuals and groups who saved lives, changed lives, and lifted spirits during a most challenging year, in an inspiring virtual ceremony on Thursday October 22nd, 2020.
The honorees came from a wide range of professions and locations. They included BTS, global superstar musicians from South Korea; Vikas Khanna, celebrity chef and philanthropist from India; the celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma; South Korean entertainment impresario Miky Lee; philanthropists Joe and Clara Tsai; and tennis champion Naomi Osaka. The evening also featured a special message from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as well as a tribute to the frontline health care workers who proved to be so consequential in treating patients infected with COVID-19.
India-born Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna has been feeding people since he was a child. But not until 2020 did it become a matter of life or death. In April, while quarantining in his Manhattan apartment, Khanna, host of MasterChef India, monitored news out of his homeland and watched, with horror and helplessness, as a virus-fueled humanitarian crisis unfolded.
Millions of Indians needed food. Khanna desperately wanted to help, but how? Khanna turned to Twitter, where he has more than 2.3 million followers, and issued a heartfelt plea for information on communities in need. “I wanted to show that solidarity still exists,” he said. Khanna received a torrent of responses, and #FeedIndia was born.
Khanna partnered with India’s National Disaster Relief Force for logistical and on-the-ground support and his movement soon received aid from grain companies, tech firms, and offers of industrial kitchen space in Mumbai. By late-August #FeedIndia had delivered more than 30 million dry food packets and cooked meals to hundreds of cities throughout India. “I feel like the past 30 years … have prepared me for this moment,” said Khanna, a member of Asia Society’s Asia 21 Young Leaders network. “This has been the most gratifying [time] in my culinary career.”
Few individuals epitomize the mission of Asia Society better than Vikas Khanna, who rose from humble origins in India to become a Michelin-starred chef in New York. Khanna was selected as an Asia Game Changer for helping feed millions of people in his native country whose lives were turned upside down by the pandemic.
“Asia Society is one of the most important organizations which unites East and West, and I’ve always been proud of its work,” he said in receiving the award. “Standing here and accepting the Game Changer Award in 2020 has been one of the proudest moments of my life.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed similar sentiment through a special message presented during the ceremony. “I would like to exercise gubernatorial prerogative and nominate another Game Changer from the people of the state of New York: and that is the Asia Society itself,” he said. “The Asia Society performed a vital role for the state when we needed it the most. [They] helped us in the midst of the most crucial period in dealing with the pandemic, when New York State feared our hospital system would be overwhelmed and we were having difficulty staffing our hospitals.”
Asia Society’s 2020 Asia Game Changer Awards honorees were chosen for their responses to the year’s twin traumas of COVID-19 and racially motivated violence. In partnership with Citi, Asia Society annually honors game-changing leaders from a broad geographic range and varied backgrounds; this year’s honorees have saved lives, changed lives, and lifted spirits all across the globe.
“In this time of profound global challenge, our 2020 Game Changers shine a beacon of love and courage across our divided globe,” said Asia Society President and CEO Josette Sheeran. “They have met the moment, and they have inspired the world. We are honored to bring them to our signature global event.”
The virtual event will also feature a special message by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a performance from Yo-Yo Ma, and a special moment to honor frontline health care workers in the U.S. and Asia.