Mette fra Noma er med på den prestisjefulle listen 50 NEXT 

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Foto i denne saken: Ditte Isager.

Har du lurt på hvordan den ikoniske retten shawarma av sellerirot med trøffel ble til? Jeg har tatt en prat med Mette Brink Søberg fra Noma som har en rimelig stor finger med i utviklingen av retten.

50 Best har nettopp avslørt andre utgaven av 50 Next, en liste over unge mennesker som former fremtiden for gastronomi. Dette skjedde på et live-arrangement på Palacio Euskalduna i Bilbao den 24. juni. 

Organisasjonen bak The World’s 50 Best Restaurants og The World’s 50 Best Bars kunngjorde i går 2022s 50 Next, en årlig liste over unge mennesker som former fremtidens gastronomi. Listen ble klar etter en en rekke inspirerende foredrag og interaktive paneldiskusjoner med medlemmer av 50 Next ‘Class of 2021’ og ‘Class of 2022’, samt noen av verdens mest anerkjente kokker.

50 Next er utviklet av 50 Best og Basque Culinary Center i San Sebastian.  50 Next viser et utvalg av unge mennesker fra hele verden som har gjorde ideene sine til virkelighet. 50 Next er en liste og ikke en rangering, for 50 Next har som mål å inspirere, styrke og koble sammen unge mennesker som virkelig flytter grenser og takler utfordringer fra nye perspektiver på tvers av den kulinariske verden både med mat og drikke, vitenskap, jordbruk og teknologi.

På listen over de nye talentene som utgjør Class of 2022 finner vi blant annet danske Mette Brink Søberg som jobber på Noma. Jeg tok en prat med Mette (Chief Research and Development) som jobber på testkjøkkenet på verdens beste restaurant (ifølge The 50 Best Restaurants) i København.
Hun er kvinnen bak den legendariske grønnsaksbaserte retten fra 2018, Shawarma av sellerirot med trøffel. 

Dette skrev jeg om retten da jeg besøkte Noma i august 2018: 
“Tynne skiver av sellerirot med linfrø (for å lime sammen lagene, vil jeg tro) og trøfler. Skivene som skjæres av den store shawarmaen karamelliseres og serveres med rips (for syre) og eplene som grilles sammen med shawarmaen. Salaten som ligger sammenrullet er blader og gjær. Sausen er laget av trøffel og sjøgress. 
Dette er en meget tilfredstillende rett som skal være kveldens «kjøttrett». Den er ekstremt god og rik. Den er smøraktig, karamellisert og lekker. De har klart å få frem de deilige lagene som en shawarma laget av lammekjøtt og fett har. Det er som å spise godt, marmorert kjøtt. 
Dette var retten jeg hadde gledet meg aller mest til, og forventningene er innfridd. Så til de grader! Sausen vil jeg ha intravenøst på mitt dødsleie, for dette er noe av det beste jeg har smakt. Fullt umamikick fra sjøgress og trøffel. Det er ren og skjær hygge. 
Man savner ikke kjøtt på noe som helst tidspunkt i denne retten – eller menyen som helhet når det er sagt.Resten av måltidet kan du lese om her

Foto: Ditte Isager

Mette, hvor stor del av retten er takket være deg?

Vi arbejdede på Shawarma retten i lang tid. Ideen til den opstod faktisk da vi var Mexico og lave popup. Dengang var vi inspireret af den mexicanske ”taco al pastor” og vi syntes det kunne være sjovt at lave en vegetarisk ret inspireret af ”pastor”. Det lykkedes dog ikke i Mexico, så vi blev ved med at arbejde på retten tilbage i København. Over flere omgange arbejdede vi alle i testkøkkenet på forskellige udgaver af en vegetarisk shawarma. Og efter at have forsøgt med stort set alle tænkelige grøntsager, som vi på den ene eller anden måde, kunne tilberede på en form for spyd, kom vi frem til den endelige udgave. Så jeg vil sige at det var en ret, som i høj grad blev til med hjælp fra alle i testkøkkenet, men jeg har bestemt brugt mange timer på at bygge forskellige versioner af shawarma spyd.

Å kalle noe som er vegetarisk for “burger”, “shawarma”, “pølser” og andre retter man forbinder med kjøtt, har det oppstått problemer og spørsmål fra kunder? Eller ser du på det som uproblematisk?

Nej, det synes jeg ikke har været et problem. Jeg synes nærmere jeg har oplevet at folk synes det er spændende, at vi har taget noget som de fleste kender til og lavet på en helt ny måde. Vi bliver jo konstant inspireret af teknikker fra hele verden, og i høj grad dem vi har mødt på vores rejser. Og det er altid sjovt at tage udgangspunkt i noget vi kender godt og så se om ikke vi kan ændre på nogle ting og gøre det til vores eget.

Hva var det mest krevende teknisk eller råvaremessig når det kommer til å utvikle retten? Prøvde du andre grønnsaker eller var det opplagt at den skulle lages av sellerirot?

Vi prøvede som sagt stort set alle tænkelige grøntsager, og endda også urter og blomster. Vi legede også med hvorvidt det skulle være mindre spyd til én eller to personer eller et stort spyd til alle gæster i restauranten. Og alt derimellem. I bund og grund var vores mål at fokusere på, at putte noget på en form for vertikalt spyd, som derefter skulle grilles over sagte varme.

Da vi efter mange mange forsøg fandt frem til kombinationen med knoldselleri og trøffel gik vi i gang med at kigge på detaljerne. For at gøre sellerien mør, men stadig med lidt bid, skar vi knoldsellerien helt tyndt ud i hundredvis af skiver, som vi derefter tilberedte forsigtigt i trøffeljuice og brunet smør. Derefter stablede vi selleri skiverne på et spyd med et tyndt lag af henholdsvis trøffelpuré, hørfrø (linfrø på norsk) ”fudge” og selleri/trøffel puré mellem hvert lag. Det tog flere timer at bygge et spyd, som svarede til cirka 25-30 personer. Derefter grillede vi spyddet i timevis over sagte ild på en hjemmelavet vertikal grill. Sidenhen fandt vi ud af, at det faktisk var bedre at bygge shawarmaen, og herefter skærer den ud i portioner og så grille de her skiver individuelt, for at have muligheden for at grille dem på begge sider, således at man ikke kun fik én side, der var karamelliseret på grillen. Det tog dog stadig godt og vel to timer at grille en portion, så der var travlt ude på vores grill i den periode.

Foto: Ditte Isager

Når du har en idé, hva skjer så? Blir den testet ut blant flere på testkjøkkenet på Noma og så går man i gang med å jobbe den ferdig? Når kommer René inn i billedet? 

René er en del af udviklingen helt fra starten af. Han bruger en stor del af sin tid i testkøkkenet med os. Vi starter normalt med at snakke om hvilke ideer vi har til menuen, alt fra ingredienser og teknikker til mere udefinerede forestillinger om anretninger og konsistenser og også hvilke følelser og stemninger vi leder efter. Tit er mange af vores ideer inspireret af smage og indtryk vi har fra vores rejser og popups. Vi går hurtigt i gang med at afprøve nye teknikker og smage og efter et par ugers arbejde går vi som regel i gang med at afholde ”smagninger” hvor vi alle smager på de projekter vi har arbejdet på, og beslutter hvilke vi skal arbejde videre på og hvilke retninger, der kunne være interessante at afsøge. Som arbejdet skrider frem går vi fra i starten at arbejde primært på elementer og nye teknikker og smage, til decideret at arbejde på retter. Normalt er det først i måneden op til åbningen af en ny sæson, at vi rigtigt sammensætter retterne, da de råvarer vi bruger typisk ikke er i sæson før de egentlig kommer på menuen. Af den grund, er der også en del retter, der først bliver udviklet efter sæsonåbning, hvis der er tale om råvarer, som kun er i sæson i kort tid. Det er selvfølgelig udfordrende at arbejde på den måde, men også ekstremt motiverende. Nogle retter kan vi arbejde på i månedsvis hvor andre kan blive til på en enkelt dag. Men så er der selvfølgelig stadig gjort brug af elementer, for eksempel en olie eller dråber af en fermenteret juice, som kan have taget månedsvis at udvikle.

Når vi til slut mener at vi har en menu klar, smager vi den først selv mane gange i testkøkkenet, og senere afprøver vi den på vores kollegaer,- kokke, tjenere osv. For at få så meget feedback som muligt. Det gør også at der allerede før vi åbner er foretaget masser af små ændringer. 

Hvor stor del av idéene og prosjektene du jobber med alene eller i team blir det noe av?

Vi arbejder både alene og i teams. Men selv når vi arbejder alene er vi tæt sammen i vores fantastiske testkøkken, som er placeret udenfor vores restaurant, i et drivhus, så vi rigtig kan følge med i sæsonerne. På den måde bruger vi hinanden rigtig meget til at sparre og til at smage og kommentere på de ting vi er i gang med, både løbende og når vi har ”smagninger”. Derudover bruger vi også ofte vores kollegaer, som arbejder i restauranten, til at diskuterer ideer med og få inspiration fra. Og sommetider giver vi dem nogle kreative projekter at arbejde på. Vi er så heldige at have kokke ansat fra hele verden, så det er enormt spændende at se hvordan folk med forskellige baggrunde angriber de projekter de arbejder på.

Hva er den neste “shawarma”? Hva har du jobbet med (og gjerne nå) som har samme potensiale for å bli en ikonisk rett på linje med shawarma-retten? Og hva gjør en rett ikonisk, som selleri-shawarmaen?

Jeg mener altid at smagen er det vigtigste. Ligegyldigt om det er en utroligt kompliceret ret med et hav af ingredienser og teknikker eller en helt simpelt servering, er det vigtigt at det bare smager helt vildt godt. Og så må der selvfølgelig også gerne være et element af overraskelse, og gerne noget, der giver en et smil på læben. Jeg tror det er vigtigt, at man har en lidt ”legesyg” og åben tilgang til at kreere retter, så det ikke bliver alt for alvorligt og kedeligt. Udseendet betyder selvfølelig også meget. Og det samme gør mundfølelsen, altså hvilke konsistenser retten består af. Vi bruger også rigtig meget tid på at udvikle og beslutte hvordan en ret skal serveres og hvordan den skal spises. Det kunne være en varm, rig ”magma” af kartoffel og hyldeblomst, der drikkes gennem et sugerør af en tyk løvstikke stilk, som stikker op gennem en urtepotte. Eller et tyndt fladbrød fyldt med blomster, der ligner en sommerfugl i en insekt boks. Vi arbejder altid på at alle vores retter på menuen, har hvert deres ”univers”, således at de alle gør indtryk og ikke bare er der for at ”fylde” op. Det er svært at sige hvilke der bliver ”ikoniske”. Men når vi er i gang med at udvikle retter, er der ofte et moment, hvor man ligesom kan mærke hvorvidt noget bare fungerer eller om det ikke er værd at arbejde videre på. Jeg mener det er vigtigt at følge sin mavefornemmelse. Den følelse, når noget fungerer, er helt fantastisk. Men det kræver ofte også rigtig rigtig mange fejlslagne forsøg at nå dertil. Det kan være utroligt frustrerende, men det er også en stor og vigtig del af den kreative proces.

Hvor mye kan man kamuflere en råvare med andre smaker eller med teknikker? Er det viktig for deg at råvarene fremdeles smaker det den opprinnelig er? 

Det er meget forskelligt. Sommetider kan det være en ret, hvor vi fokuserer på at fremhæve smagen af en enkelt råvare og ophæve den ved hjælp af andre smage. Men vi laver også ofte retter, hvor vi sammensætter en masse forskellige smage, så det tilsammen smager helt fantastisk. Jeg synes, det er vigtigt at en menu består af begge dele.

Hva kan du aller best like å spise når du har fri fra arbeidet?

Hvis det skal være nemt og hurtigt, kan jeg rigtig godt lide bare at spise rugbrødsmadder. Jeg har altid et rugbrød fra Hart liggende, det holder sig godt og er klart det bedste jeg har smagt. Men jeg elsker også at lave mad til mig selv og min familie.

Hva har du alltid i kjøleskapet? Og hva spiser du aldri?

Chili olie. Jeg elsker chili, især efter vi har været i Mexico. Jeg blender bare nogle tørrede mexicanske chilier med olie. Det kan bruges på alt, og får alt til at smage bedre.

Det kan jeg ikke komme på, jeg spiser stortset alt.

Hvor går veien for Noma? Hvor lenge kan man blive ved at skabe retter som dere gjør? Og hvor lenge er det interessant for kunden?

Noget ved af det bedste ved at arbejde på noma, er at der altid sker noget nyt og vi bliver kastet ud i nye, spændende projekter. Vi prøver konstant at ændre måden vi gør tingene på og det er jeg sikker på vi vil fortsætte med. Ændringer er altid lidt skræmmende, men også ekstremt motiverende.

René talte på Madrid Fusion om at han kan takke sosiale medier for store deler av suksessen til Noma. Instagramvennlige retter som gjør at folk bare skal til Noma. Er dette noe du tenker aktivt på når du utvikler en rett? 

Udseendet af en ret betyder rigtig meget. Men kun hvis smagen også lever op til udseendet. Det går hånd i hånd. Instagram og andre sociale medier er spændende, fordi man kan følge med i hvad der sker over hele verden på ens telefon. Men det er selvfølgelig ikke det samme som at være der selv.

Hva betyder det for deg å være på 50 Nexts liste over unge talenter? Hva kan du bidra med for andre unge som også ønsker å gjøre det stort i serveringsbransjen?

Det er jeg rigtig glad for. Jeg håber da at jeg kan være en inspiration for andre og at jeg kan være med til at vise hvor fantastisk det kan være at beskæftige sig med mad. Jeg er lykkelig for, at jeg for lov til at arbejde med det der gør mig glad og oven i købet sammen med nogle helt fantastiske mennesker. At få lov til at være kreativ i mit arbejde, betyder utroligt meget. Men det kræver også, at man er i trygge rammer og har et velfungerende team at læne sig op af. Jeg er utroligt glad for, at arbejde på noma, hvor jeg føler der bliver gjort utroligt meget for, at skabe de bedste forhold for de ansatte og hvor vi behandler hinanden med respekt. Mange af mine kollegaer er også nogle af mine bedste venner. Siden jeg startede i restaurationsbranchen, har jeg altid tænkt at jeg ville stoppe hvis jeg en dag ikke længere var glad for at gå på arbejde. Men på grund af mine fantastiske kollegaer samt alle de spændende projekter, vi arbejder med på noma, glæder jeg mig stadig hver dag til at gå på arbejde, avslutter Mette Brink Søberg.

Her er hele listen over 50 Next’s Class of 2022.

TECH DISRUPTORS 

Scott-William Braley 

The blockchain expert helping chefs turn signature dishes into digital art

There are many plates of food in the higher echelons of the gastronomic world that have been compared to, or even considered, works of art. But blockchain technology can now literally turn a chef’s dish into a masterpiece, both protecting and promoting it in the process. Frenchman Scott-William Braley has combined his entrepreneurial vision with digital expertise and applied it to the food world through his company, Culinr.

Essentially Culinr translates chefs’ signature dishes into pieces of 3D digital art, which are then turned into NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). The NFTs time-stamp a specific creation and provide a certificate of authenticity, meaning the plate of food exists beyond its perishable shelf-life, even after its been eaten, and retains a value. The process also makes it much easier for chefs to protect the intellectual property of their work, helping prevent it being duplicated without permission.

As a lover of gastronomy and art, Braley also sees this as an opportunity for other gourmets to own a digital asset that has meaning, thereby developing a new relationship between chefs and their customers – or even finding new customers. “Owning something that is entirely digital may sound counter-intuitive at first sight, but it will definitely affect our lives in the near future,” says Scott-William, who holds a Masters from the Sorbonne in Paris. Culinr is attracting premium chefs from across the world interested in digitising their culinary assets and, ultimately, Braley aims to create a digital gallery where dishes can be exhibited and sold, as well as where classic historical dishes can forever be archived.

“Our mission at Culinr is to imagine and build the future of gastronomy within a digital world that is rapidly merging with our real world. This includes applying it to the Metaverse. By turning each dish that matters into a digital artwork, we are de facto creating a new investment opportunity for all in the gastronomic world.”

Daniella Kwayu 

The Tanzanian entrepreneur empowering farmers across Africa

In a continent where investment in farming as perceived as ‘too risky’ by banks, Daniella Kwayu is helping farmers and financial institutions alike by removing risk and strengthening the industry for everyone. Through Phema Agri, the company she founded in 2019, Daniella helps small farmers access financing through crowdfunding and other methods, as well as providing them with farming management tools to improve their record keeping and make the investment more worthwhile for banks. Her work, which began in Tanzania and spans across Africa, allows farmers to keep producing quality food to reach consumers in a timely manner, at a time when the Covid era has seen the food chain under more pressure than ever before. 

An economist and social entrepreneur who was raised in Tanzania in a family of farmers, Daniella grew up surrounded by parrots, rabbits and cattle. After studying in the US and Canada, she worked with multinationals in insurance, oil, gas and other sectors before undertaking a role as an agriculture analyst at a bank in her home country. It was there that she witnessed first-hand the issues in agriculture and decided to go about finding solutions. Thus, she started Phema Agri, using her knowledge and skills to help farmers get access to funding, and enabling them to de-risk their businesses through partnerships with insurance companies. The company has several functions, including supplying producers with the best fertilisers, machinery and feeds to help them to increase their yield. 

Daniella is also the founder and director of Adanian Labs, an incubation platform that supports tech-driven solutions geared towards solving Africa’s social-economic issues in agriculture, health, energy, education and financial inclusion. A firm believer in the power and role of the youth in unlocking Africa’s development challenges, Daniella leverages her networks and invests her resources to nurture, coach and support youth-led ideas to create sustainable, scalable and impact-driven solutions for the continent.

“I’m passionate about seeing the youth and start-ups in Tanzania and Africa grow and scale while creating tangible impact and economic empowerment in the continent.”

Fengru Lin

The forward-thinking Singaporean making alternative milk from stem cells

As co-founder and CEO of TurtleTree, a biotech company that uses stem cell technology to produce high-quality milk in the lab by extracting cells from mammals, Fengru Lin is at the forefront of change in reducing use of animal products and their consequent effect on the environment. Employing a process that uses less land, water and energy while reducing disease risk, her company creates a delicious milk alternative that is helping to pave the way to a more sustainable future. Based in Singapore, TurtleTree is currently working on scaling up its processes and producing samples for development and regulatory approval, while also launching a cell-based commercial product called human lactoferrin that helps strengthen the immune system, improve gut health and benefit brain development.

With a degree in information systems management and marketing, Singaporean Fengru has worked as an account manager and executive for companies like Salesforce and Google. A cheese lover, she came up with the idea for TurtleTree while learning how to make cheese, when she realised the sustainability issues concerning traditional milk production and the environmental impact of cattle farming. In 2019, with Max Rye, she co-founded the company, discovering a way to synthesise milk from mammals using stem cell technology. Under her leadership, TurtleTree has won multiple awards and competitions and has received international media attention, as well as raising more than $40 million in funding. With support from major investors, Fengru is focused on the causes she cares deeply about: ending animal cruelty, making sure the world’s growing population is fed and improving the way people eat, drink and live worldwide.

“Our current food systems and traditional methods of dairy production are unsustainable… As the demand for dairy and dairy products increases with the rising global population, novel strategies for food production are more important than ever.”

Magdalena Jüngst and Tim Jäger

The inventive duo behind a sustainable, refillable bottle that flavours water

As architects of the innovative water bottle company Air Up, German designers Magdalena Jüngst and Tim Jäger are at the forefront of sustainable innovation in tech. Together they created the world’s first scent-based-taste drinking system, a refillable bottle that flavours water with natural scents through a recyclable ‘aroma pod’ without sugar or artificial ingredients. The technology tricks people into thinking they’re tasting cherry, cola and other flavours while in fact drinking pure still or sparkling water. With each sip from an Air Up water bottle, air passes by the aroma pod to be infused with flavour, then reaches the consumer’s nose and gets decoded by the brain to experience flavour without the additives. Since its launch, Air Up has sold one million starter kits, saving 85 million PET bottles and 2,465 tonnes of sugar.

Lena and Tim developed the first Air Up prototype as part of their bachelor thesis at the University of Schwäbisch Gmünd, where they were studying Industrial and Product Design. While analysing food-related issues such as obesity and diabetes and looking for healthier, sugar-free alternatives for daily hydration without sacrificing the taste, they discovered a study that emphasised the importance of the smell component for taste and explained the way our brain perceives and interprets flavours. In 2019, following much positive feedback, the pair created a start-up with co-founders Fabian Schlang, Jannis Koppitz and Simon Nüesch. Challenging the norm through healthy-lifestyle experiences, they aim to revolutionise the drinks industry by offering a soft-drink alternative that is healthier and better for the planet.

“New generations demand new solutions. We are from and for a new generation. This is where we are rooted, why we are relevant today and how we will remain relevant tomorrow.”

Mustapha Diyaol-Haqq

The Ghanaian coder leading the charge for agricultural innovation

Mustapha Diyaol-Haqq is used to defying the odds. From a young age, he was fascinated by computing and electronics and taught himself to code by watching YouTube tutorials. Having quickly picked up the skills, he began making apps for his friends and before long, Mustapha had created a machine-learning model that was able to detect early signs of breast cancer. Now proficient in his field, he is teaching the next generation of Ghanaians to code as an instructor and developer at Ghana Code Club. 

Growing up in Accra, Ghana, Mustapha has always been concerned about agriculture and his surrounding environment and in 2018, he brought his two worlds together. Together with co-owner Ernestina Appiah, Mustapha began the Okuafo Foundation, a social enterprise spearheaded by an app that helps farmers scan their crops and detect pest infestation. 

The Okaufo app has brought Mustapha to the cutting-edge of agricultural innovation and is benefitting hundreds of rural West African farmers. Using the real-time AI-powered tool, farmers can take steps to protect their own crops and harvests but safeguard the environment from harmful and ineffective pesticides. 

The young entrepreneur has big plans for his technology and for sustainable crop growth in Ghana. As one download can be shared between up to 50 farmers in a community, he hopes to create a network of users across the country over the next few years. Mustapha is currently working on extending his monitoring services to small- and large-scale cocoa farmers. 

“I see a future here people are more conscious of how their food is grown and consumers will choose food grown sustainably.”


Nick Berry

The engineer guiding Australia towards chemical-free agriculture

Dr Nick Berry has a self-confessed ‘laser focus’. Having grown up on a grain- and wool-production farm on Kangaroo Island (south-west from Adelaide) and followed a lifelong passion for mechanical engineering, he has spent over a decade working towards one goal: helping farmers to sustainably feed the world. 

The fruits of his 12-year career are witnessed in his many chemical-free agricultural machines, the most notable of which is Seed Terminator – a mechanical weed seed exterminator that is used to manage pests across the almond industry. Working against the growing global reliance on harmful herbicides, which greatly diminish crop yields by eliminating important nutrients, water and sunlight, Nick is encouraging farmers to transition to more sustainable methods. 

Nick’s relentless drive is paired with unfailing optimism for the future of the food and agricultural industries. He sees his technology, among others of its kind, as a way for the population to reconnect with food production and understand more about what he calls the ‘paddock-to-plate’ process. 

Seed Terminator machines are already sweeping Australia and more of his creation are being transported overseas. When thinking about the future, for Nick, the possibilities are endless. He’s setting single-use plastics firmly in his crosshairs and is considering experimentation with biomass. 

“We want to continue to push the boundaries. Our philosophy is to make the biggest possible difference to world of food production.”

Farah Emara 

The Egyptian entrepreneur revolutionising the food supply chain

Egyptian Farah Emara’s innovative work can be expressed in simple numbers. In a country where food loss average for producers is 45%, through her company FreshSource she has lowered the rate for her users to just 5%. Not only this, but FreshSource also increases farmers’ income by 20% on average and lowers their costs by 15%.

It all started when Farah and her brother Omar discovered that poor harvesting, transportation and storage were impacting Egyptian farmers to the point that nearly half of their produce was lost before it even hit the shelves. On top of this, farmers were missing out on potential income due to middlemen not paying fair prices and inflating the costs. 

Farah decided to apply her background in business, economic development and management to this issue. In 2018, she co-founded FreshSource and started out by analysing data on market demand and prices to guarantee the best value for money for producers. The company now works directly with small farmers who lack access to the market and helps them grow and sell high quality products, eliminating the need for middlemen. The farmers’ produce is then sent to the FreshSource warehouse, where it’s stored, packaged and shipped to restaurants, hotels, factories and hospitals according to demand, vastly reducing food loss and waste. 

Her innovative work applying data and technology to the food system has made her a leading player in Egypt in food distribution, while creating a more sustainable ecosystem and transforming the lives of producers, businesses and consumers. Farah is now setting her sights on the whole Middle East and Northern Africa region, hoping to change the way fresh goods are sourced, moved and sold for the better. 

“Our niche is the ability to use data and technology to streamline the value chain, empowering producers by increasing their income and providing lower costs to businesses while reducing food loss.”


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HOSPITALITY PIONEERS 

Zineb Hattab 

The plant-based advocate backing better working conditions and destigmatising veganism 

It takes guts to quit a well-paid, stable job to take a chance on a dream, but that’s exactly what Spanish-Moroccan Zineb ‘Zizi’ Hattab did when she left her position as a software developer to knock on the door of one of the world’s best chefs. In 2014, with zero professional cooking experience and a truckload of passion, Zizi became a stagiaire at chef Josean Alija’s Nerua in Bilbao, Spain, then spent the next decade working her way up in 50 Best restaurants including Schloss Schauenstein, Osteria Francescana, El Celler de Can Roca and finally Cosme, where she was executive chef under Daniela Soto-Innes. At these world-class restaurants, she learned world-class skills, but the activist in her was itching to fight for change in an industry she saw as flawed. She wanted to create a restaurant that fought against the male-dominated environment, back-breaking hours and poor mental health, while starting something with a future-gazing approach to the environment.

Enter Kle, the plant-based restaurant she opened in Zurich, Switzerland, at the start of the pandemic in 2020, and its accompanying plant-based bar, Dar. Not previously vegan, Zizi cut out animal products to learn how to live without the flavours she’d relied on for years. Creating a beet tartare that her customers say is more delicious than a beef one, and signatures such as Kle Fried Mushrooms, she has designed a truly plant-based restaurant that can compete with the best fine dining establishments in the world. Though becoming a restaurant owner has been the biggest challenge of her life, she has stuck to her principles and beliefs, serving dinner just five days a week to give her staff two days off and foster a healthier working environment. Meanwhile, she fights against the stigma often attached to veganism by normalising plant-based cuisine at Kle, which is named after a German word for a plant. As a woman from a family of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in Spain, Zizi also provides great inspiration to others through her determination to succeed in a male-dominated industry with no formal training.

“It’s more important than ever that owners and managers create working environments where staff thrive professionally and socially with a sustainable human approach. We can’t help impact people and the planet with our food and service if we’re not happy and healthy within our own daily lives.” 

Michael Elégbèdé 

The Nigerian chef restoring pride to indigenous ingredients and dishes

Nigeria is significantly the most populous country in Africa, yet its food remains largely unknown on the global stage. Third-generation chef Michael Elégbèdé is aiming to change that through his own Ìtàn Test Kitchen in Lagos and as co-founder of Abòri, a local collective movement aiming to facilitate sustainable growth in Nigeria’s food system. Elégbèdé move to the US when he was 13 and began his cooking career as a teenager in a family-run restaurant in Chicago. After graduating from college, he went to work at globally renowned restaurants including The French Laundry and Eleven Madison Park (both in the ‘Best of the Best’ category of restaurants which have reached the top spot on the 50 Best list), where he experienced the power of storytelling through food.

Passionate about raising the representation of the African continent in the culinary sphere, Michael returned to the country of his birth in 2016 to explore Nigeria’s varied regions, researching indigenous ingredients and learning more about its richly diverse cultures. He opened Ìtàn as a space for him and his young team to explore recipes utilising local ingredients and, ultimately, to create fresh narratives and remarkable dining experiences around Nigerian cuisine. At the same time, he seeks to tell the stories of the people and cultures that keep local food traditions alive. While it’s not a restaurant as such, the space houses a chef’s table for private dinners and events, and aims to become a hub for Nigerian and African chefs to experiment and grow.

 
“Nigerian cuisine has often been under-appreciated and looked down upon. However, seeing stories of our culture narrated through food experiences is changing how people see and appreciate our indigenous food. Appreciation leads to preservation; preservation leads to sustainability… creating a better environment to broaden the reality of biodiversity. The mentality before was that ingredients brought in from other parts of the world are better than what we can grow locally. This mentally is changing, and I believe Ìtàn is a participant in that change.”

Debora Fadul 

The cook flying the flag for innovative Guatemalan gastronomy

Guatemalan chef Debora Fadul wants to show the world the wide potential, diversity and richness of her country’s cuisine. Born and raised in Guatemala City, after attending culinary school she founded the catering company Chef de Mon Coeur, through which she started exploring the spiritual dimension of food and promoting the value of Guatemalan gastronomy. 

Debora soon followed Chef de Mon Coeur with a nomadic, seasonal pop-up restaurant concept called En (meaning ‘in’), through which she curated ephemeral gastronomic experiences wherever her customers wanted them – ‘in’ the city, ‘in’ the farm, ‘in’ the house and other personal environs. The success here saw her quickly reach the top of the country’s culinary industry and she turned her catering company into a permanent restaurant in Guatemala City called Diacá, which roughly translates as ‘from here’. 

Since the restaurant opened in 2018, Debora has been truly at the forefront of innovation and promotion of Guatemalan gastronomy, within the country as well as internationally. At Diacá, the chef uses food as a medium to connect diners with deeper values and meanings, such as nostalgia, ancestral knowledge, the culture of the land and its farmers. She is now taking her work beyond the walls of the restaurant with Estudio Diacá, a sensory lab and collective thinktank that explores ingredients through a ‘sensory ecosystem’ that connects them with soil health, animal and crop husbandry, seasonal shifts, terroir to convey rich stories through taste, aroma and texture. 

“Restaurants in the future will be like temples to connect city dwellers with the land and rural communities and work as a feedback loop to motivate, create and share value with everyone.” 

Mette Brink Søberg 

The creative and progressive mind behind groundbreaking restaurant Noma

Five-time World’s Best Restaurant Noma may be best known for its star chef-owner René Redzepi, but he couldn’t have done it without long-time head of research and development, Mette Brink Søberg. Working from a small greenhouse in the gardens outside Noma in Copenhagen, Mette is the brains behind iconic dishes such as the celeriac shawarma that the new version of the restaurant pioneered at its first vegetable season in 2018. Calm under pressure and unafraid of failure, she works with whatever ingredients the team can find, constantly experimenting and scrapping ideas time and time again until she creates something worthy of the groundbreaking menu. Redzepi has said that Mette’s creative solutions are “limitless”,  and that she is at the forefront of food creativity not only at Noma but also within the whole restaurant industry.

After falling in love with cooking while starting out at classic Copenhagen fish restaurant Krogs, Mette moved to Sydney in 2012 to work at Marque, where chef Mark Best encouraged her to apply for a position at Noma. She joined the team as a stagiaire in her native Copenhagen in 2013 and has been working her way up the ranks for the past decade. Though she was always well-respected within the restaurant, it wasn’t until three years in that Mette really made an impact during Noma’s ‘Saturday Night Projects,’ where staff are encouraged to show off their own creations to their colleagues. Wowing Redzepi with her resourcefulness, creative mind and ability to cope in a crisis, she was given a position in the test kitchen and was later promoted to head of R&D. 

Helping to inspire and empower future generations of talented young chefs, Mette is continuing her work in the Noma kitchen while fostering a kinder, more nurturing working environment that supports people’s mental health and work-life balance while building their careers.

Quote: “It’s very important that people feel respected and empowered. Those are some of the key factors that will ensure that the hospitality industry can keep attracting talented, passionate and ambitious people who can steer the industry in the right direction.” 

Jackwing Yao, Lola Liu and Tiger Liang 

The bartending trio bringing Chinese culture into modern mixology

Three mixologists each blazing their own trail in Chinese cocktail-making, Jackwing Yao, Lola Liu and Tiger Liang are setting a new standard not only for young female bartenders but also for drinks-making in Asia and beyond. Jackwing, Lola and Tiger work respectively for SanYou in Guangzhou, Hope & Sesame in Shenzhen and Hope & Sesame in Guangzhou, all part of hoteliers Bastien Ciocca and Andrew Ho’s Hope Group. The three women make room in their shakers for traditional Chinese spirits and products, introducing infusion and distillation techniques to create modern haute mixology drinks that remain connected with Chinese culture and traditions. Hope Group challenges itself to create new cocktail menus constantly, adapting during the pandemic by developing a canned cocktail delivery service.

At Hope & Sesame Guangzhou, China’s first speakeasy and a regular in the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list, Tiger creates drinks inspired by Cantonese culture and local products, upcycling food leftovers and using seasonal fruits and herbs from the bar’s small garden. She describes herself as a risk-taker, always open to experimentation and using the bar as a testing ground. 

At SanYou, Jackwing is on a mission to change people’s perceptions of baijiu, a strong, traditional Chinese liquor made from sorghum that is usually associated with older generations and is seldom used in cocktails. In Shenzhen, Lola explores the potential of low-alcohol drinks as part of China’s burgeoning health movement, believing they open a world of possibilities for flavours and pairing with food. Together, the three women represent an exciting, innovative and limitless future for cocktail-making and bartending in China.

“By coming up with new, innovative ways as a global community, we will put an end to food waste and make every bartender and restaurant sustainable.” – Tiger Liang 

“Being a bartender and a bar manager is not an easy task, but it’s certainly a rewarding one. Having your team around and working together to accomplish a common goal is the boost you need to achieve greatness.” – Jackwing Yao

“Bartending isn’t about memorising drink recipes; it’s about creating great experiences for your guests so they want to come back.” – Lola Liu

Javier Rivero Yarza 

The Basque chef and restaurateur putting small farmers front and centre

“I wake up every day thinking about what producer I’m going to talk to,” says Javier Rivero Yarza, whose restaurant Ama Taberna revolves around the ingredients that local farmers supply on any given day. He never negotiates the price of their produce and if the product he wants isn’t available, he’ll chat to the farmer about what is available instead of going elsewhere. In this way, he hopes to educate diners while supporting local producers and creating a menu that communicates the best of Basque in dishes such as roasted leeks and lobster salad. Javier is also passionate about providing a healthy working environment for his team, with a strong training programme and a policy of making sure nobody works more than eight hours or day and five days a week.

Born in Villabona, 20km from San Sebastián, Javier was 19 years old when his mother died, changing his home environment entirely. He missed the love for food that she brought to the house and thus vowed to follow a career path that would revalue the connection between food, love and affection. He swapped his engineering degree for a course at the Basque Culinary Center before opening Ama Taberna with co-owner Gorka Rica in Tolosa, one of the strongest food towns in the Basque Country. With ‘ama’ meaning ‘mother’ in Basque, the restaurant is a tribute to his mother and also pays homage to women and their relevance in Basque culinary culture. Ama Taberna showcases the region’s treasures and the work of its farmers and fishermen, while helping turn the gastronomy sector into a better, more sustainable, and caring place both for its customers and workers. Having opened a second restaurant called Enea in San Sebastián in 2021, also with Gorka Rico, Javier shows commitment to his philosophy of championing local people and produce.

 “We have a very special relationship with our producers. We never negotiate the price of their products. They’re part of our family.”

Mmabatho Molefe

The chef championing black women and challenging misconceptions of indigenous cuisine

Born and raised in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, Mmabatho Molefe is the chef-owner of Emazulwini, a restaurant in Cape Town that showcases African ingredients and celebrates the Nguni and Zulu cuisines of the region. With an all-black, all-female team, the restaurant serves to improve racial representation while promoting traditional ingredients and recipes that have often been dismissed as ‘not fine dining’. Signature dishes include ulimi noshatini, a slow-cooked, thinly sliced ox tongue with variations of tomatoes, and uphuthu namasi, a Zulu staple dessert containing sour milk. With stunning presentations showcasing the colours and flavours of Zulu cuisine, Mmabatho is slowly changing local perceptions and fighting prejudice, proving that Zulu cuisine is as worthy of the ‘fine dining’ tag as any other. 

As a child, Mmabatho first got a taste for cooking from watching TV shows, which she copied by making mud pies with her sister. After beginning a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Law where she was constantly side-tracked by cooking, she dropped out of university to follow her true calling and go to culinary school, graduating in 2018. She applied for jobs in fine dining restaurants but found she seldom heard back, so she started the Long Table Experience, a communal dining pop-up that was a hit with friends and family before spreading to a wider audience. In early 2020, she was made redundant from her job at Salsify at the Roundhouse due to the pandemic, so she decided to plough her energy into her first solo restaurant, Emazulwini, which she opened that December. In the next few years, she also hopes to open Ikhayalethu, an empowerment and rehabilitation home for black youth experiencing homelessness.

“What we are trying to achieve is inclusivity and it’s the perfect time for that. For a while, traditional African cuisine in South Africa was seen as something that couldn’t be fine dining but in the past two years, I have had the honour to meet a lot of young black creatives passionately sharing their food and stories.”

Santiago Lastra 

The Mexican chef empowering a new generation of cooks, artisans and producers

Opening a restaurant is no easy feat, but launching one during a series of enforced lockdowns and ever-changing regulations in the middle of a global pandemic is another thing entirely. If anyone could make it work, it was Santiago Lastra, who did just that with the opening of Kol and its downstairs mezcal bar in London’s Marylebone in late 2020. 

With experience as chef René Redzepi’s right-hand man at Noma Mexico and stints at Mugaritz and Bror on his resumé, Santiago is not only a talented chef but an astute and creative businessman who developed the concept of Kol from start to finish with maximum attention to detail. Bringing a taste of Mexico to the UK without the air miles and carbon footprint, he has created a restaurant that explores Mexican flavours in seasonal ingredients from all over the UK – think tangy sea buckthorn to replace lime, seaweed instead of cactus and local grains for sourdough tortillas. The restaurant was an instant hit in London, shooting into the UK’s National Restaurant Awards within four months of opening and bagging a series of other accolades.

But Santiago’s mission isn’t solely to operate an award-winning restaurant. He also wants to build and strengthen a community, supporting and uplifting staff with a progressive working environment. He pays the utmost respect for Mexico’s culture and heritage, supporting indigenous communities who supply corn, chocolate and chilli – the only products he buys from Mexico. In the UK, he works directly with craft makers, foragers and small farmers, ensuring traceability while supporting local communities. In Kol, he has created a fine dining restaurant that conveys the essence of Mexico in the heart of the UK capital, while simultaneously empowering and inspiring a new generation of cooks, producers and artisans.

“I want to be part of a new generation of restaurants that work in a better way with their staff, giving them a great work environment, without compromising the quality of what we do.”

SCIENCE INNOVATORS 

Sara and Max Marquart

The German pair harnessing fermentation tech to create cocoa-free chocolate

Nicknamed ‘the Chocolate Siblings’, Drs Sara and Max Marquart have created a confectionary unlike any other. Made through the fermentation and roasting of cereals such as oats rather than cocoa, their chocolate, under the brand name QOA, is 10 times more sustainable than its competing products on the supermarket shelves. 

They are the dream team: both Sara and Max are self-professed foodies, propelled by professional backgrounds in science and experience with start-ups and entrepreneurship. Their journey began when they read the book Never Out of Season by Rob Dunn, which describes the damaging biproducts of our food system – including exploitation and deforestation – and steps we can take to mitigate these long-term effects on a global scale. Inspired to join the transformation effort, the Marquarts introduced QOA as a future-proof alternative to mass-market cocoa products. 

Using the scientific tools at their disposal such as gas and liquid chromatography, Sara and Max began by researching the exact flavour and aroma of chocolate before embarking on the fermentation process. Their substitutes for cocoa, including spelt husks and press cakes from the oil industry, can all be sourced locally and in regions around the world. 

For the Chocolate Siblings, QOA is only the beginning. After bringing their future-proof product to the American market in late 2022, they plan to turn QOA into a holistic ingredient platform and be one of the forerunners of the sustainable food revolution. 

“We need to transform our food system radically – most of the ingredients we are consuming now are at risk or harm the planet. Gastronomy is and will and needs to be at the forefront of this transition.”


Risha Jasmine Nathan 

The Indian scientist cleaning water with fruit and vegetable peels

Indian forensic scientist Risha Jasmine Nathan is on track to invent a new, sustainable solution to the problem of water contamination. Her ground-breaking technique has been recognised as potentially gamechanging in developing countries, where the removal of contaminants such as heavy metals from water supply is a big issue demanding affordable solutions. And with Risha’s research, the key could be found in fruit and vegetable peels. 

While working as assistant professor of forensic science at Galgotias University in Uttar Pradesh, Risha came across a technique called ‘biosorption’, where agricultural waste products are used to remove metals from wastewater. It was from here that she got the idea that fruit and vegetable peels could be turned into ‘green filters’ to clean drinking water. 

As well as potentially providing a low-cost, environmentally safe and viable drinking water decontamination method, Risha’s idea also offers a solution to the problem of landfill dumping, as it helps recycle the tonnes of peel waste that end up in landfills every year, in turn causing land pollution and generating methane gas. 

Having achieved her Ph.D. in toxicology from the University of Otago in New Zealand in 2020 thanks to this idea, Risha is now researching the topic in more detail, hoping to change the lives of millions of people in developing countries who still don’t have access to clean water. 

“My goal is to make use of the science of toxicology to work towards the creation of a safer and healthier world, a place where justice is served to all.” 

Nidiya Kusmaya

The Indonesian textile artist turning food waste into clothing

Indonesian textile artist Nidiya Kusmaya is not just challenging the status quo with her research, she is linking the food chain to sustainable clothing production. 

The textile industry has grown to be one of the world’s largest sources of pollution, leading the search for environmentally friendly dye to be more important than ever before. Promoting her sustainable alternatives to industrial synthetic materials, Nidiya travels to rural areas of Indonesia with the Institute of Technology in Bandung and the Indonesian Government to showcase how food and textiles may be combined to solve some of the world’s agriculture waste problems.

Nidiya’s dye may be manufactured from the most basic kitchen produce, such as pruned plants, damaged vegetables and fruit peelings. Using microorganisms, Nidiya treats protein and carbohydrate-rich ingredients with fermentation techniques to make pigments that can be used in textiles and has recently discovered that the process also works with some kitchen-based micro fungi and bacteria, too.

Guided by a philosophy of co-existence with living things, Nidiya sees a close relationship between food, textiles, colours and culture. To her, creating colours from food materials is more than just a form of expression or art. It is part of a broader study of the relationships between humans, nature and spirituality.

“I draw inspiration from when I see things grow. For me, the process of creating colours from food materials deeply links nature with humans and God. It’s a relationship that will continue to develop until the end of time.”

Jessica Bogard 

The single-minded dietitian fighting for better global health and nutrition

Dr Jessica Bogard is on a mission to increase access to, and consumption of, healthy, sustainable food in communities around the world. As a dietitian and public health nutritionist, she carries out research to understand how to leverage agriculture and food systems to improve nutrition, particularly among vulnerable groups including women and young children in low- and middle-income countries. She works with scientists across different disciplines and scales from local to global food systems, improving access to healthy diets.

After graduating with a degree in health science in 2009, Jessica worked as a dietitian in a large hospital in Brisbane, helping people to change their eating patterns to overcome health problems. She soon realised that people were constantly surrounded by cheap, unhealthy foods, and she decided to focus on preventing them from getting sick in the first place. This led her to pursue a career in science research, travelling to Bangladesh, where she led the development of a database documenting the nutritional value of over 50 different local fish species at an international fisheries research agency. Realising the importance of nutrition expertise to improve the health of communities, she used her work there as a base to complete her PhD at the University of Queensland in 2017.

Now Jessica leads research in the Pacific region to understand and map regional and national food environments. Where in high-income countries, people often get their food from supermarkets and restaurants, in lower-income places, food is often harvested by the community. Through her work, Jessica develops scientific methods and tools to understand those food environments, allowing her to better identify opportunities to improve community nutrition and health. In an age of devastating malnutrition and climate change, her research and publications enable poorer communities around the world to envision a healthier future and turn it into reality.

“I hope to motivate and inspire other women and girls to pursue a career in science. The voice of women is so crucial in addressing the complex challenges the world faces.”

Gregory Constantine and Stafford Sheehan 

The double act turning air into alcohol to reduce carbon emissions

Gregory Constantine and Stafford Sheehan have ambitious aims – to reduce global emissions by over 10% each year and to slow global warming to save the planet and its resources for generations to come. How? By creating a technology that converts carbon dioxide into impurity-free alcohols to make a variety of products from spirits and fragrances to longer-term applications such as aviation and aerospace fuels. As co-founders of Air Company, they ‘make things from air,’ using renewable electricity at their facilities in Brooklyn, New York to turn CO2 into products such as Air Vodka, a pure, carbon-negative spirit. When the pandemic began, they created a sanitiser called Air Spray that they donated to frontline workers and organisations in need, and in 2022 they launched Air Eau de Parfum, the world’s first fragrance ‘made from air’.

With a PhD in Chemical Physics from Yale University and a degree in Chemistry and Mathematics from Boston College, Stafford met Greg when the two were both listed on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list and found themselves in a bar together in Israel. Greg had completed a bachelor’s degree in Media and Communications in Sydney before studying at Harvard Business School, and the pair bonded over a passion for innovation and bettering the planet. Greg had worked in the alcohol industry and Stafford had been working on carbon dioxide conversion technologies for a decade. They brought both worlds together, developing a project to make the alcohol industry more environmentally friendly and sustainable. One of their targets is aviation, which they intend to regenerate by introducing fuels made from CO2, ‘powering air travel with air itself’. They also want to venture into outer space, creating fuels for rockets and glucose that could even be used on Mars.

“The work we do at Air Company is tough but extremely purposeful. By taking captured carbon dioxide and turning it into carbon-negative alcohols and fuels, we’re able to hopefully help change the course of history for the better.”

Verleen Goh 

The Singaporean scientist creating prebiotic fibres to boost gut health and immunity

As co-founder of Alchemy Foodtech, Verleen Goh aims to create a healthier future for Asians by developing products that help reduce the incidence and improve the management of chronic diseases such as diabetes. The company makes Alchemy Fibre, a patented powder from plants such as peas and beans that is added to rice, noodles and bread products to lower their glucose release, providing beneficial prebiotic fibres that aid gut health and immunity without compromising the taste, texture or appearance of food. The goal is to create a product that allows people across Asia to enjoy staple foods like white rice and steamed buns without harming their health.

Verleen studied Food Science and Technology in Singapore and was always interested in the important role that food plays in our health. The idea for Alchemy Food came from her entrepreneur husband Alan Phua’s desire to protect his family’s health, after seeing many relatives suffer from diabetes. The pair created a database of plant ingredients that could help their purpose, conducting research on their properties and testing them in an in-vitro digestion system that mimics human digestion to ensure that the ingredients they use can effectively lower glucose release. So far, they have partnered with more than 50 restaurants and food manufacturers to incorporate Alchemy Fibre into their meals, and their products are sold in major supermarkets and pharmacies in Singapore as well as being exported to the US and Philippines.

“I believe in ‘food be thy medicine’ and that food and nutrition play a big role in healthy ageing and disease prevention.”

Asrar Damdam

The Saudi scientist extending fresh goods’ shelf life with cutting-edge tech

Armed with a PhD in electrical and computer engineering, Saudi Arabian scientist and researcher Asrar Damdam set out for Silicon Valley with an ambitious goal: to halve global food waste by 2030. With her latest invention Uvera, it’s a big first step in achieving this target. Asrar’s biotech startup specialises in containers that prolong the shelf-life of fresh food by destroying harmful bacteria with ultraviolet light and can extend ingredients’ shelf life exponentially. 

Where most use refrigeration, Asrar applies UV-C light. Her sleek storage units produce a wave that can be directed at fruit and vegetables to keep them fresher for longer and thus allows them to be transported greater distances, without the need for environmentally and fiscally costly storage solutions. While avoiding the undesirable effects of treating food with heat, the ultraviolet light spectrum is chemical free and can reduce the growth of common viruses, such as Covid-19, salmonella and E. coli.

With this invention and a suite of sophisticated storage solutions in the pipeline, Asrar’s ground-breaking research and development is helping to bring the world one step closer to environmental sustainability and widespread food security for all. 

“The philosophy that guides my work is ‘fail fast, fail often’. To succeed, we must be open to failures, and we should embrace and learn from them.”

Eneko Axpe 

The gastrophysicist on a quest for more sustainable food systems

Eneko Axpe’s path to the gastronomic industry is highly unusual. A physicist by training, he obtained a master’s degree in material sciences and a Ph.D. in physics. He was working for NASA developing biomaterials to prevent and treat spaceflight-induced bone loss in astronauts when a chance discovery led him down a different path. Learning that food production contributes around 37% of human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions, he became set on using his skills and knowledge to make a positive impact on the planet and combat climate change through food design. 

Eneko’s work is all about developing sustainable alternatives to meat and other food products that have a negative impact on the environment. By applying physics to gastronomy, he has become a global leader in texture design, using his knowledge creatively in products such as cutlery and furniture made from mushroom mycelium, designed in collaboration with NASA. In 2019, he became the first physicist to join Beyond Meat, where his internship work focused on food textures to develop plant-based pork products. Two years later, he joined Impossible Foods, where he worked on multiple creative plant-based meat prototypes.

Joining forces with chef Eneko Atxa of World’s 50 Best restaurant and previous Sustainable Restaurant Award-winner Azurmendi, Eneko also co-founded Oraibi, a sustainability project that investigates the most polluting foods and researches new dishes and techniques to create a fully sustainable cuisine. 

 “Creating delicious food products out of food waste is an effective strategy to combat climate change.” 

EMPOWERING EDUCATORS

Elizabeth Yorke and Anusha Murthy 

The innovative thinkers sparking conversation around Indian food systems

Elizabeth Yorke and Anusha Murthy are the co-creators of Edible Issues, a food collective that fosters conversation around the Indian food system via a weekly online newsletter, meet-ups, community engagement and workshops. Connecting people from agriculture, hospitality, politics and business, they facilitate an exchange of information to better understand the future of food and tackle some of the biggest issues of the system. They have worked on several major initiatives including Edible Goes Bananas, a project to unfold the complexities of India’s banana industry, and #OilYouNeed, an educational project examining India’s edible oil consumption. Aside from their joint ventures, Anusha is building a cooking robot to help consumers to eat more healthily, while Elizabeth is working on a community-focused project to upcycle spent grain.

While Elizabeth discovered her curiosity about where food comes from after studying at culinary school and cooking in hotels and restaurants, fellow Bangalore resident Anusha had worked as an engineer in tech start-ups, where she specialised in technology applied to the food system. The pair met in Italy at the Future Food Institute’s Food Innovation Program, a one-year Masters in innovation, design thinking and foresight from a global perspective. In their second week of the course, when they were looking at cultured meat innovation from a western perspective, they began to question what a plant-based diet meant to a country with a centuries-old vegetarian culture. They developed their studies around nutrition, culinary confidence, caste, gender and more, and together founded Edible Issues in 2018. As true trailblazers and original thinkers, Elizabeth and Anusha have gained respect and a reputation as go-to voices towards a better future for food in India.

 “We believe in putting people at the centre of it all through collaboration. At no point are we reinventing the wheel; we’re merely connecting the dots. Most of our work is around ‘making sense’ of the Indian food system, where an array of forces shapes the way we eat: from environment to society, economy, caste and politics.”

Yi Jun Loh 

The charismatic communicator teaching the world about Asian cuisine

A food writer, podcaster and cook, Yi Jun Loh is dedicated to sharing Asian food stories with the world through his podcast Take a Bao, his blog Jun and Tonic, and articles for publications such as Saveur and Taste. With a particular focus on South East Asia, he speaks to chefs, farmers, food writers and anthropologists to explore his own curiosity while educating the world on the history and culture of Asian cuisine in a fun and engaging way, whether looking at the origins of stinky durian fruit or examining the disappearance of the Malaysian coffee houses known as kopitiams. A talented podcaster and journalist with a unique skill set, Yi Jun uses his experience in the US and Europe to create a better understanding of the intricacies of Asian cuisine for an international audience in a way that has seldom been achieved before.

Yi Jun is more than qualified to talk about food. Having studied chemical engineering at Cambridge University in the UK, he then trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris before staging at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York state, where he learned from 50 Best chef Dan Barber, then working at a produce-driven restaurant in his hometown of Kuala Lumpur. After learning the ins and outs of the hospitality industry, he applied his knowledge to food media, developing his own mission to address the lack of representation and food voices in the South East Asian food space, particularly Malaysia. He began a podcast in a sphere dominated by American and European voices and simultaneously developed Jun and Tonic, publishing cross-cultural recipes such as kimchi carbonara and miso mushroom pasta. A progressive mind with a foot in several cultures, Yi Jun manages to translate culinary traditions in a way that is progressive, relatable and accessible to a young international audience, thus fostering a better understanding of Asian cuisine for the world.

 “I see food as not only a tool for activism; it also possesses powerful potential to influence culture, politics, inter-cultural dynamics and more, from the level of the individual to communities, societies and countries.”

Vinesh Johny 

The Indian trailblazer spreading the gospel of pastry arts

When Vinesh Johny became passionate about pastry after graduating in hotel management at Christ University in Bangalore, he discovered that specialised baking courses simply didn’t exist in India. Rather that pursuing his training abroad, as many of his contemporaries were doing, he set about creating a permanent solution to the issue. 

Founded in 2012 by Vinesh alongside Avin Thalliath and Lijo Chandy, the Lavonne Academy of Baking Science & Pastry Arts in Bangalore is India’s first specialised international baking school. Through it, Vinesh dreams to turn pastry arts into a mainstream career choice in India and to make the country a top destination for those looking to pursue baking and pastry as a passion or profession. 

Offering a range of courses from the full-time Diplôme de Pâtisserie for committed learners to weekend classes for amateur bakers, the academy has considerably improved national pastry art standards and has inspired a host of other schools to open across the country. By offering its students the opportunity to study management and entrepreneurship, it is giving young pastry chefs the tools they need to fund myriad innovative businesses. And with its practical learning programme hosted at the Lavonne Student Café, it is empowering a new generation of pastry talent who won’t have to leave the country to receive the highest standard of culinary education – and thus make their sweet dreams come true. 

Nurturing young talent in our industry by giving them practical and hands-on experiences in the area of culinary arts, baking, pastry making, cooking and even sustainable methods of sourcing produce is of paramount importance.” 

Chloé Charles 

The classically trained chef challenging the gastronomic status quo

Chloé Charles is no ordinary cook. Although trained in the strict traditions of the French culinary arts, she continues to push the boundaries of elite gastronomy. Her mission? To creatively produce original dishes with zero waste and minimal impact on the environment. Drawing inspiration from the world around her and most often, the vegetables at her fingertips, she creates beautiful yet simplistic dishes, while squeezing every ounce of flavour onto the plate. 

Chloé’s resumé reads like a menu of France’s top restaurants, including l’Epi Dupin, Betrand Grébaut’s Septime and Fulgrances’ flagship restaurant L’Adresse, where she made waves as the first resident chef in 2015. Sustainability and minimal food wastage have been woven into the fabric of her tutelage, which she received from some of the nation’s legendary chefs. Working alongside François Pasteau, Chloé was challenged to use 100% of her produce every single day and at Fulgrances, she created zero-waste amuse-bouches for every single guest. 

With years of experience in the formal restaurant environment under her belt, Chloé recently struck out as an independent chef and kitchen consultant with the hope of sharing her knowledge and understanding with likeminded companies and brands. While thoroughly enjoying the freedom to choose her own projects, Chloé is currently designing an app, Reductio, to be used in school and professional canteens that collects data on how much food is wasted and suggests ways to decrease the excess. 

“As a chef, I need to be an example to my community and show them that cooking sustainably is not a burden – everyone can do it.”

Charles Michel

The Colombian visionary connecting the world through food 

“One of the biggest lies I believe we’re told is that we live in a world of “not enough” – that we need to produce more food to feed 10 billion people by 2050,” says Charles Michel. “We produce enough food to feed every single human, yet the distribution is unequal and unfair.” This idea of the ‘myths’ of the current food system is what drives the Colombian educator to develop courses and content to better inform the world, and to use food as a catalyst for social and environmental change.

Starting out as a chef at top restaurants including Nadia Santini’s Dal Pescatore in northern Italy, Charles quickly concluded that fine dining wasn’t accessible to the masses. He began exploring food as a way of building community, working as a chef-in-residence at Oxford University under the mentorship of renowned professor Charles Spence. He later developed courses on conscious eating, food leadership and more, encouraging activism while inviting his students to challenge the issues of the hospitality industry, from gender inequality and violence to food waste and sustainability. Through his social media presence, Ted Talks and Patreon community, he practises his own form of activism, ultimately aiming to reconnect humans with themselves, each other and nature through food.

“In a world where division is rampant, I encourage people to question everything and vote with their money in ways that induce feelings of empowerment, instead of guilt and shame.”

Arielle Johnson

The scientist and educator exploring our understanding of flavour

A fine example of how it is possible to carve out one’s own career niche in a saturated sector, Arielle Johnson shines bright. Revelling in the title of ‘flavour scientist’, Boston-born Arielle brought together her twin loves for chemistry and gastronomy in her post-graduate studies and is now enhancing understanding of taste on multiple levels. After completing her doctorate, she moved to Denmark to work as the in-house scientist at Noma – one of the Best of the Best restaurants that has previously topped The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (on five occasions, no less). It was a role she created herself, which says as much as you need to know about Arielle’s drive as well as the innovative nature of the Copenhagen restaurant. There she co-founded the hugely influential Noma Fermentation Lab and headed up research at MAD, Rene Redzepi’s food exploration project.

Having returned to the US, Johnson’s output now straddles multiple facets including writing, scientific research, culinary consulting, TV, working with food non-profits and more. At its core, her work seeks to apply greater scientific understanding to the culinary world, identifying new patterns of flavour and tase and sharing that knowledge with forward-thinking chefs, small food companies and educators. In 2023, we can also expect Johnson first book: Flavorama: The unbridled science of flavour and how to get it to work for you.  

“I’ve been working with chefs and restaurants for going on 15 years, and I have found myself explaining a lot of the same scientific concepts that explain how flavour works—how our perceptual systems work, how flavour is made up of taste and smell, the molecules that create it and so on — and then saying ‘Wow, I wish there was a book I could give you that summarised all this in a useful way’. Right now, I’m writing that book.”

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ENTREPRENEURIAL CREATIVES

Dinara Kasko 

The Ukrainian cake-maker who started a pastry revolution

Part artist, part pastry chef, Dinara Kasko is a pioneer of the confectionery world who is best known for her unique cakes made from 3D printers – her designs include silicone moulds in the shapes of bananas, cherries, hearts and even children’s pop-it toys. With almost a million Instagram followers and a huge network across social media channels, she has influenced a young generation of bakers, from professional chefs inspired by her methods to novice cooks who use her 3D silicone moulds at home. Kasko shares her knowledge and inventions with the world, selling her uniquely shaped cake moulds as well as teaching culinary art online to students from more than 150 cities. Since the war began in early 2022, Dinara has fled Ukraine and is living as a refugee. She converted her website to take donations and has been supplying essential medical supplies to Ukraine, while running online classes and working to revive her cake business.

Born and raised in the now-destroyed Kharkiv City, Dinara took an interest in art and craft from a young age before studying architecture and design and then working as both an architect and a designer. In 2015, she started making architectural moulds as a hobby at a time when there was little innovation in the sphere. Her designs generated attention on the internet, allowing her to turn her passion into a business that developed into a team that now mass-produces and sells her moulds in almost 100 countries. Dinara also has an eye on health, making sure to use the best quality ingredients and add nutritious touches to her recipes wherever possible. Through her different projects and her disruptive approach to confectionery, she aims to create a new gastronomy culture that merges food, art, innovation and higher quality standards. Her art adds new life to a traditional craft, spawning imitators the world over.

“I see my cakes as edible design objects. I create art that disappears when you consume it. It’s a reference to the idea that nothing lasts forever.”

Oscar Ekponimo 

The software engineer enabling leftover food to get to the hungry

In Nigeria, access to food is a challenge for many low-income families – FAO estimates that around 13 million people face hunger and nearly seven million suffer from severe malnutrition. As a child, Oscar Ekponimo also experienced the fear of not knowing where his next meal would come from. So, after studying computer science and attending business school in Lagos, he devoted himself to sparing other people of the same experience. 

Oscar’s first brainchild was Chowberry, an app that connects grocery stores and supermarkets with NGOs and charities to put leftover and wasted food to good use. When it’s approaching its expiration date at the shop, the food is listed on Chowberry at a discounted price, allowing non-profit organisations to buy it and distribute it among families who are facing food security issues. Oscar’s brilliant solution contributes both to reducing food waste and to improving food access among communities facing hunger. 

The app was the seed for Oscar’s Chowberry Foundation, whose aim is to achieve food justice – a more equitable food system in which health and nutrition, food system R&D and food waste reduction all play a part in empowering communities to live better. Already present not only in Nigeria but also in Zambia, Ghana, Trinidad & Tobago and the United States, the foundation has facilitated the distribution of over 1.6 million meals, prevented over 30,000 tonnes of food from being wasted in Africa and impacted over 50,000 households facing poverty in Nigeria.

Oscar’s latest invention is a revolutionary nutritional supplement developed in collaboration with Impossible Foods. The Chowberries are nutrition bites made from fruits and vegetables, enhanced with nutrients and packaged in algae-based wrapping that extends their shelf life. Oscar aspires to turn the food system into a self-sustained, decentralised ecosystem where communities are empowered to take control of their food and nutrition needs – and won’t stop until he reaches his goal. 

“Access to food should be a fundamental right of every individual. The monopoly of big corporations on the food system limits the ability for communities to take ownership of their nutrition.” – Oscar Ekponimo

Travin Singh 

The upcycling evangelist turning bread into beer while preserving the environment

Passionate about the planet, Travin Singh learned early on that food should never be wasted – if ever food was left on his plate as a child, his mother would turn it into something else the next day. Thus his upcycling spirit was born. Fast forward two decades and Travin is the founder and CEO of Crust Group, a food tech start-up that turns food waste into beverages and other products – think artisan beers in fresh and youthful flavours like Kaya Toast Stout, named after the traditional Singaporean breakfast dish. The company operates two lines of products: Crust, a range of sustainable, artisan beers made from surplus bread and other ingredients like coffee and tea, and Crop, a line of non-alcoholic drinks made from fruit and vegetable waste such as peels, seeds and rinds.

After studying business management and working as a financial consultant, Travin was determined to start a company that was value-based, not just for profit. He had his ‘eureka moment’ after home-brewing beer and realising that the preservation of bread is linked to the oldest forms of beer-making. Seeing an opportunity in the large amounts of unsold bread, he honed his own brewing skills via YouTube and, one year on, founded Crust Group. The company aims to empower businesses in foodservice and retail to upcycle their food waste and loss into high-value products. Travin ensures his team values local produce, using a locally grown plant called ulam raja instead of importing hops for their beers. With this combination of commitment towards sustainability and local-grown produce, Travin is turning lifelong beliefs and passions into an upcycling business that ultimately aims to cut food waste and reduce carbon emissions.  

“As an entrepreneur, it is important to keep an open mind and be constantly adaptable, especially in a start-up environment; to be understanding and open to feedback.”

Mariana da Silva Vasconcelos

The daughter of Brazilian farmers using technology to maximise crop productivity

A gifted connector who believes that anyone can make change, Mariana da Silva Vasconcelos is helping to tackle a problem of crop monitoring for farmers in Latin America. As founder and CEO of Agrosmart, she brings digital agriculture to developing countries with sparse internet infrastructure, helping farmers to make better decisions about irrigation, weather and disease forecasts. While many producers in the region make choices based on intuition alone, Mariana empowers them with technology that produces results based on reliable data, giving them food security by allowing them to adapt to climate change and make better operational decisions. 

As the daughter of traditional farmers, Mariana grew up witnessing the daily challenges faced by the industry and felt strongly about technology and its potential for making change. After studying business administration and a masters in agribusiness, she set up Agrosmart in 2014, installing crop sensors to measure environmental conditions and identify a crop’s needs in real-time. The technology allows farmers to increase productivity by up to 20% while saving 60% more water. While such technology is widely used in western European countries, it is scarcely available in Latin America due to lack of infrastructure, long distances and large agricultural landscapes. With Mariana’s determination, passion and skills, Agrosmart is strengthening farmers’ livelihoods and empowering them to run more sustainable and successful operations.

“We believe in the power of diversity to create deeper and better perspectives that drive innovation. In that context, we also believe that anyone – no matter how small – can make change.”

Caroline Cotto

The entrepreneur taking food sustainability into her own hands

Hailing from the town of Sandwich in Massachusetts, USA, where her family run an ice cream business, Caroline Cotto was destined to work with food. It’s a vocation that has given her countless stamps in her passport and access to some of the US’ biggest organisations, from the UN World Food Programme to the White House. 

Using her unique insight into the country’s food access and consumption, Caroline decided to tackle food-related global issues head on. During her career as a nutrition specialist and marketer, she has worked against world hunger, childhood obesity and most recently, sustainability. All these roads lead to Renewal Mill, the company she launched to help reduce food waste by turning by-products into nutritious ingredients. 

Taking the reins as COO, Caroline has spearheaded Renewal Mill’s growing portfolio, which includes a range of vegan pantry staples. Gluten-free flours are generated with upcycled plant-based milk and there’s a dark chocolate brownie mix that’s made with recycled soybean pulp. With imagination and drive in spades, Caroline is constantly exploring new ways to repurpose by-products: her latest fixation is on spent grains left over from the beer brewing process. 

Caroline’s next challenge is to share her vision with the world. She founded the Upcycled Food Association, drawing other gastronomic businesses into the fold. With every new member, Caroline is realising her goal of creating a circular food ecosystem. 

“Food has the power to heal and unite people. I’m inspired to create products that do just that: food that educates and creates joy, while also tasting delicious.”

Camila Fiol Stephens

The Chilean pastry chef inspiring young generations with new flavour combinations

A pastry chef and educator with a difference, Camila Fiol has blazed her own trail rather than following trends or fashionable ways to create desserts. As the mastermind behind Fiol Dulcería, a confectionery store in Santiago de Chile, she creates innovative sweets with daring combinations such as milk chocolate biscuits with Italian hard cheese, or bacon, vanilla and smoked butter soft caramel. She follows the notion that less is more, using only three or four ingredients in each creation so as not to allow flavours to get lost. She experiments with different products from her travels, incorporating a wide range of vegan items such as vegan soft serve ice cream into her range. But her work isn’t just making and selling sweet treats – Camila is also an educator who’s passionate about sharing her knowledge of Chilean pastries.

After starting her career as a chef in several restaurants, she landed a position as a kitchen assistant under Rodolfo Guzmán at Boragó, the top-rated Chilean restaurant on the 50 Best lists. It was there that she fell in love with sweet recipes, quickly realising that ice cream, desserts and confectionery were ‘her thing’. She progressed to the position of head pastry chef at Boragó before leaving in 2012 to start Fiol Dulcería, where she still sells everything from macarons to gummy sweets, marshmallows and chocolates. In the years since opening the shop, she spent several years in Spain, working as a researcher at the Basque Culinary Center’s BCC Lab and also as a pastry teacher, all of which gave her the skills to teach fellow Chileans when she returned to Santiago in 2018. A creative and inspiring figure for a new generation of chefs and entrepreneurs, Camila has paved her own path through gastronomy, taking the best of her country’s culinary traditions and adapting them for a contemporary and appealing way of working with sugar.

“Pastry is more than bonbons and cakes; more than chocolate, raspberry and vanilla. Everything in your candy or dessert is there for a reason. If you put a flower in it, it’s because it’s acidic and lowers the sweetness in your dessert, not because it’s ‘pretty’.”

Juan Pablo Medina 

The Colombian entrepreneur who upcycles coffee for a better future

As the co-founder and CEO of the Danish bioscience company Kaffe Bueno, Juan Pablo Medina and his co-founders Alejandro Franco and Camilo Fernández are on a mission to help the planet while improving Colombian coffee farmers’ livelihoods. They believe the life of a coffee bean needn’t end after we drink it – most coffee grounds go to waste, often ending up in landfill, generating methane that has harmful effects on the environment. Instead, Kaffe Bueno upcycles spent coffee grounds from hotels and other businesses into cosmetics and nutraceuticals like Kaffoil, an active oil for hair care, skin repair and anti-ageing products, and Kaffibre, a product rich in protein, potassium and dietary fibre that can be used for baking and confectionery. 

The idea was born after the three Colombians met while studying in London. Hanging out with their Scandinavian friends, they realised how much coffee – often from their home country – was consumed in Europe. In their final year of university in 2016, the coffee industry was going through a crisis where it cost more to farm than to buy, with the price of a cup of coffee completely out of whack with what farmers were being paid. Aided by an entrepreneurship course, the three friends applied for a Danish start-up visa and developed a concept of using green chemistry and biotechnology to leverage the healthy properties in coffee to make functional foods and personal care products. 

Five years into their project, they are working on new products and have received funding for the world’s first coffee bio-refinery focused on the wellness industry, which they hope to launch by 2023. While Kaffe Bueno is achieving its aim to minimise harmful emissions and maximise the use of coffee by-products, Juan Pablo is making headway on a personal goal to have a positive impact not only on farmers in his home country, but also on people and in places far beyond. “Present times are harder and more volatile than ever, but this is also the moment when good people must rise to the challenge,” he says.

“There is room to be good to the planet and the environment as well as making money for you and your shareholders. Long-lasting change occurs this way.”

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GAMECHANGING PRODUCERS

Yu Hsuan Cheng 

The talented chocolatier bringing Taiwanese flavours to the world

“I still remember my first bite of decent chocolate; a fruity, Madagascan dark chocolate. That experience has been echoing throughout my entire career,” says Yu Hsuan Cheng, the Tainan-born chocolatier who has made his life’s work out of sharing the best chocolate flavours with the world. Through Yu Chocolatier, he shares his Taiwanese culture through his bold creations, featuring local ingredients like calamansi and longan fruits, jasmine flowers and maqaw pepper in a series of beautifully boxed, intricate chocolate bonbons. Yu Chocolatier has been a cult success in Taipei, winning multiple global accolades and becoming the first Taiwanese chocolate brand to be invited to the Salon du Chocolat in Paris. With a book about his time in France, Chocolate Monologue from Paris, Yu Hsuan is also planning to open a shop in the French capital.

Having grown up in Texas with his family, who moved to the US when he was one, it was when Yu Hsuan went back to Taiwan to study literature in 2007 that he bit into a square of chocolate that changed his life and career. He quit university and dedicated the next few years to self-study, reading everything he could, practising chocolate-making and later moving to Paris, where he studied at the Ferrandi school and interned at Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen. Now, through Yu Chocolatier, he wants to build a sustainable model for the chocolate and pastry industry in Taiwan, sourcing his ingredients responsibly and improving worker conditions in terms of salary and working hours. A young, cosmopolitan entrepreneur with a taste for the finest chocolate, he is committed to sharing his country’s culture with the world while showing the potential of its ingredients and flavours.

“As a creator of taste, I believe it is our duty to foresee the unimaginable, to explore the unknown. People can only decide if they like a taste or not once they have tasted it. It is up to us, the innovators, to imagine and realise the never-ending explorations of human mind

Rosanna Gahler

The German researcher finding solutions for regenerative farming 

Rosanna Gahler believes that the key to sustainable and, indeed, tasty food lies within the soil. The agroforestry manager from eastern Germany has spent her career researching ways to optimise agricultural land with e-generative farming, an educational journey that has led her back to the ground beneath her feet. 

Adhering to the concept of ‘Beyond Farming’, Rosanna focuses mainly on the sandy soil of Brandenburg, a region of Germany bordering Poland, which has a high level of carbon dioxide stored within the earth. By adopting her own unique farming methods that utilises the natural nutrients in the earth and adding to them carefully, it increases the biodiversity of plants and animals on the land and produces some of the most nutritious and flavoursome ingredients to be seen on German restaurants’ plates.  

While most farms specialise in one area of agriculture, Rosanna’s team at Gut&Bösel does it all: agroforestry, holistic grazing, mobile chicken trailers and compost production are all on the roster. 

Eager to share her findings with the world, Rosanna has organised dynamic events on the topics of food, agriculture and digitisation for curious people – students, entrepreneurs and researchers in spades – to exchange ideas and learn together.  

“My mission is to show that working in agriculture is challenging, but also inspiring – it’s the key to solving many of the problems of our times. It should be an attractive future for young people, for women, for all generations.”

Dharath ‘Tot’ Hoonchamlong 

The zero-waste educator rethinking the drinks business from Bangkok

Both innovator and reinventor, Dharath ‘Tot’ Hoonchamlong is at the forefront of sustainability in the cocktail space. With his Wasteland bar project co-founded with Kittibordee Chortubtim, Krit Parkobdee, Suchada Sopajaree and Phanurat Yookongsak, he fights food waste with delicious, unique drinks. While Wasteland came about as a physical bar within Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants regular Bo.Lan, it has evolved into a drinks label that changes with the times and also serves an educational purpose. Tot has developed his skills as a public speaker and educator, consulting on food and the environment while spreading the sustainability and zero-waste message to students, researchers, farmers and chefs.

After completing a Masters in Food Studies at New York University, Tot returned to Thailand and was working at Bo.Lan when he founded the bar to make cocktails from surplus shallots, lime peels and melon skins. When the pandemic forced Bo.Lan to close and the government banned drinking alcohol in public spaces, he had to rethink. Wasteland began making craft soda using surplus ingredients and by-products like cacao husks and whole citrus fruits. While introducing different flavours to Bangkok palates, the project also fights waste and minimises the industry’s carbon footprint. Tot calls his drinks an environmental ‘message in a bottle’ as they offer new perspectives and flavours while educating everyone from farmers to consumers about the impact on the planet of all that we eat and imbibe.

 “We communicate information and flavours so people can learn to better equip themselves with knowledge about food and beverages. I learn new things every day.”

Martin Texier  

The low-intervention French winemaker promoting artisanal values

Despite being raised in a family of winemakers, with his father Eric Texier making a name for himself as an organic producer in the Rhone Valley in Southern France, Martin Texier followed his own path. He studied economics before focusing on music and DJing, but after working for a wine importer and distributor in New York, he discovered a passion he couldn’t ignore. He moved back to France to follow his father’s footsteps, but he would do so his own way, developing an alternative take on wine. He is now an artisanal, organic winemaker pushing for a new wave of natural, non-manipulated wines, reviving old local varietals and traditions through his label, Martin Texier Wines, which is part of a community of thriving craft producers of cheese, honey and more.

Since 2014, Martin has been producing wines in Saint-Julien-en-Saint-Alban and Brezème, two small areas that were almost forgotten in winemaking. He continued his father’s work to re-plant and re-develop the area’s vines, but he focused instead on older, lesser-known local varieties such as Cinsault and Clairette that had been abandoned in the last 20 years in favour of popular varieties like Syrah. He doubled the vineyard’s surface area and built a new cellar with renewable materials, but his approach to winemaking remains similar to his father’s, focusing on low intervention and respect for the land. All his vines are grown organically, with native yeast fermentation without added sulphur, and grapes harvested by hand. Martin is also part of an association where volunteers re-plant vines in a village where property development is putting pressure on the land. 

“A good winemaker isn’t an artist but a poet. As a grower, you can have an impact on your product by knowing your land, your trees, your vines and the weather. I don’t think you can create a good wine, but only create an environment where a good wine can come out.”

Corrado Paternò Castello 

The Italian entrepreneur championing sustainable small producers

A law graduate with a master’s degree in sustainability and social innovation, Corrado Paternò Castello saw a gap in the Italian market and decided to fill it. Small, sustainable local producers – he realised – had the highest-quality products that consumers wanted to buy, but often lacked the right tools to market them and reach a buying audience. This was negatively impacting not only the producers, but also the equitable and sustainable development of Italian economy. 

In 2020, Corrado founded Bonviri alongside Alessandra Tranchina and Sergio Sallicano, starting with just 100 bottles of olive oil from a small producer. The company helps farmers improve their practices by guiding them on how they can reduce their gas emissions and waste, while also giving them access to services such as product photoshoots, visibility on Bonviri’s channels and the ability to sell their products at a fair price on the company’s website. 

Today, Bonviri works with 10 producers making everything from tea to spices, capers to honey – and recently, even the first Italian carbon-neutral olive oil. Bonviri’s clients get to purchase a selection of high quality and sustainable products, knowing exactly where, how and by whom they were produced, and becoming an active part in an environmentally and socially conscious supply chain that helps preserve the traditions and biodiversity of the producers’ own local areas. 

“I don’t see food as a mere nutrient, but also as a way to express a preference towards a fairer and more sustainable society and way to do business. My approach is expressed by the motto ‘eat well doing good’: we can enjoy great food and in the meanwhile be actors of change.” 

Jessica Naomi Fong 

The vertical farming advocate feeding Hong Kong with fresh local produce

One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Hong Kong might be the last place where you’d think you’d be able to source local fresh produce. In fact, on an average day, between 95 and 99% of the produce that is consumed in the city is imported. Jessica Naomi Fong set out in 2017 to change this situation. 

Having started out in the food and beverage manufacturing industry, Jessica witnessed first-hand the issues surrounding food quality and wastage that affected not only Hong Kong, but also the global supply chain. Inspired by Italy and other countries with vibrant agricultural systems, she decided to bring fresh produce to her city – albeit in an unconventional way. Common Farms was born in 2017 with the aim of making high quality, pesticide free, nutritious and freshly grown food more accessible to the Hong Kong community all year round, thanks to a network of urban vertical farms that are breathing new life into idle industrial spaces. 

Jessica’s farms use organic soil and compost, LED lights and aquaponics technology to grow over 10 times the amount of produce of an equivalently sized outdoor farm, while using 95% less water. The low-carbon-footprint produce is then distributed across Hong Kong, from the city’s top restaurants to people’s homes, empowering the community to eat less processed foods. Commons Farms is on the way to securing the city with a trustworthy, locally produced source of high-quality produce that also avoids the negative impact in terms of carbon footprint and food waste – Jessica’s dream come true. 

“Traditional farming is unpredictable, uncertain, dictated by the weather, the climate and other elements that are out of our control. We can now grow precisely what the market wants and needs and ultimately shorten the food supply chain that is currently unnecessarily costly, inefficient and wasteful.” 

Pol Contreras Vilapriñó

The multi-talented cooking professional unlocking the secrets of chocolate

A gifted culinary creative, Pol Contreras Vilapriñó follows one simple principle in his life: only play by the book if you have no other choice. By applying this philosophy to his various endeavours, he has been able to break the patterns of the establishment to create what experts have called the ‘fifth chocolate’. 

It all started when Pol, a culinary professional since the age of 15, came across a video online of a French couple who had moved to Vietnam and opened their own chocolate factory despite having no prior experience. Fascinated, Pol travelled to Vietnam to meet the pair and came away with a passion for chocolate that still burns to this day. On his return, he founded Chocolates Pol Contreras, the company through which he’s exploring the potential of the bean-to-bar movement, experimenting with new cacao products and laying the foundation for what he calls the ‘bean-to-dish’ phenomenon. 

Sourcing unique bean varieties from places such as Venezuela, Madagascar and Papua, Pol is changing the rules of the game by applying creative solutions to chocolate production. His ‘fifth chocolate’ (coming after the four common varieties: dark, white, with milk and ruby) is made from cocoa mucilage. He makes stout beer from Papua cocoa husk, wine from Indian cocoa husk and is collaborating with textile designer Arantza Vilas to extract dyes from the husk waste. 

His talent hasn’t gone unnoticed – he was selected by legendary chef Ferran Adrià to be part of the ElBulli Foundation research team and has already won a ‘Pastry Chef Revelation’ award by Madrid Fusión. While researching unusual beans and developing new products, he is also the head of R&D at restaurant Echaurren, is collaborating with visionary chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz and is even producing a podcast. 

“We will soon see a more decolonised chocolate industry. Exporting will be more decentralised, more farmers will produce their own chocolate and sell it to the West, and we will see price increases caused by shortages of products, energy, transport and fertilisers.” 

Rahaf Allymoni 

The Syrian innovator turning waste into the next coffee alternative

Rahaf Allymoni’s story is one of love, creativity and dedication. In 2013, the Syrian creative suffered from a stomach issue and was advised to eat dates for their high nutritional value. She started to save the seeds, which are usually thrown away during the production process, when she discovered they held a lot of benefits: they’re rich in ions, fibre, antioxidants and protein, and they’re a natural energy booster. She decided she wanted to make a drink from them – but the war in Syria prevented her from doing so. 

In 2016, Rahaf met her partner-to-be, Tamil, on a Facebook group for jobseekers. The pair fell in love and got engaged despite the distance: Tamil lived in Turkey, which Rahaf couldn’t visit due to visa issues. When she decided to apply for asylum in the Netherlands, completing her master’s degree in economic development and innovation from the refugee camp, Tamil finally found his way to the same country and they met in person for the first time in 2019. 

Rahaf and Tamil immediately started working together on her idea, first from the asylum seekers’ centre in Groningen and then at the Forward Incubator in Amsterdam, where they found an investor for their project. In September 2020, they launched their company, FirstDate, through which they are now commercialising Daffee, an innovative caffeine-free alternative to coffee and tea. 

The company collects discarded date seeds from organic farms across Northern Africa and roasts and grinds them to make Daffee, which comes in flavours such as cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon and orange peel. It isn’t only a healthier alternative to conventional drinks: it also upcycles a product that would otherwise be considered waste. Rahaf’s story of love, creativity and dedication continues. 

“I would like to see Daffee become one of the big companies producing coffee alternatives and have access to markets around the world.” 

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TRAILBLAZING ACTIVISTS 

Alpha Sennon 

The educator inspiring the next generation of sustainable farmers

How do you educate the next generations to achieve global food and nutrition security within the next 30 years? For Alpha Sennon, the answer takes an unexpected shape: the brilliantly referenced ‘food superheroes’.

Growing up on a farm in Trinidad and Tobago, Alpha was always the first to get out of bed – not to watch cartoons and play video games like his friends, but rather to feed the chickens or water the crops. Despite being determined not to become a farmer, the only course that truly interested him at university turned out to be agribusiness. By studying farming from a different point of view, Alpha understood that it wasn’t about planting vegetables, but about feeding the world with healthy, nutritious food. 

After university, he created Agriman, Alpha’s first food security superhero. Agriman is on a mission to become the world’s most powerful food provider, fighting villains such as PlasticImposter and SugarBlast with his trusted sidekicks PhotosyntheSista and Agribot. In 2017, Alpha built on the idea by founding WHYFarm (We Help Youth Farm), an NGO that promotes the importance of sustainable agriculture among youth and children through innovative and creative strategies – comic books, theatre, visual arts, music and poetry. Alpha wants to turn agriculture into ‘agricoolture’, making farming more attractive to the next generation while building their capacity in agricultural entrepreneurship. 

His work doesn’t stop at children – he has also developed the Agripreneur Master Programme, an eight-week challenge in which WHYFarm selects the top 10 young ‘agripreneurs’ in Trinidad and Tobago to help them develop their projects. Building on the NGO’s work with 60 schools and about 15,000 children per year nationwide, Alpha is working on a new big project: the School of Agricoolture, to further spread WHYFarm’s model and edutainment strategies. 

“It’s not my generation that will feed the world in 2050. The children of today will. If we don’t have that conversation with them, by 2050 we’ll be asking ourselves: ‘Where are our farmers, where’s our food?’” 

Nicola Kagoro 

The Zimbabwean chef challenging perceptions of vegan cuisine 

As an African, Nicola Kagoro says that she was raised to believe that ‘meat equals wealth’. But through deep research into African culinary traditions and history, the Zimbabwean known as Chef Cola discovered that her ancestors didn’t consume as much meat as many do today, and that mass production of animals began after colonisation. She is now devoted to promoting plant-based cuisine across the continent, giving people the tools and knowledge to create delicious and affordable meals such as vegan sausage with caramelised onions, without the use of animal produce. Through her company African Vegan on a Budget, based in Harare and Cape Town, she works with corporate and individual clients who want to learn more about plant-based cooking.

Born in Harare and raised in New York, where her mother worked as a diplomat, Chef Cola’s idea of cooking was shaped by both African and western cuisines. She studied hospitality management and worked in several restaurants before discovering plant-based cooking at a restaurant in Cape Town. From then on, she was committed to veganism, starting African Vegan on a Budget in 2016 with the aim of presenting the advantages of a plant-based diet in terms of health and animal and environmental conservation. 

Extending her work to communities, Chef Cola also collaborates with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) on a pioneering vegan conservation programme that empowers disadvantaged women to restore and manage a network of wilderness areas as an alternative to trophy hunting. She is also a queer representative who speaks up for LGTBQI+ community rights. In the future, she aims to keep shaping the industry by creating plant-based kitchens across Africa in areas where meat is the main ingredient of every meal.

“As an African, I was raised to think that meat equals wealth. If you don’t consume meat, you are considered poor. The irony is that most people in rural and urban communities cannot actually afford meat because of our tight economic conditions.”

Zacarias González 

The artist-turned-chef banging the drum for Bipoc and queer voices in the culinary space

A multi-hyphenate creative, Zacarías González is devoted to championing people of colour and queer voices across gastronomy. Formerly an art director and creative consultant who worked for Vogue Italia and the National Gallery of Art in New York, he now runs Ediciones, a creative studio producing several projects around food and community. 

Among Ediciones’ initiatives is Auxilio, a non-profit project to create an intersectional, community-based, food-centred space providing resources, nourishment and support for queer, black, trans and indigenous communities of colour in New York City. Part of its work is a food distribution programme that provides educational tools, events and workshops as well as a weekly fresh food delivery box. 

Zacarías and his co-founders also produce Warm Cake, a print publication dedicated to the queer, black, trans, femme and non-binary chefs and bakers he has met and interviewed over the past six years. The project is partly a response to the lack of diversity he sees in cookbooks and other publications. 

Fascinated with cooking, baking and farming since his teens, Zacarías learned to cook through trial and error, using his family as his guinea pigs. While at art school in Germany, he kept his culinary passion alive and even worked as an intern in a German chocolate company for six months, his first experience in a professional kitchen. He was in his mid-thirties when he decided to re-focus his career towards food instead of art, and as an auto-didact, he has pushed himself to learn and grow, applying his skills and knowledge to his cause. Further extending his repertoire, he is also working on opening a cooperatively run wine bottle shop called Amigxs that will partner with two other Bipoc wine education organisations to provide more access and educational opportunities to the community. 

As a queer Cuban-American artist with a background as a commercial art director turned chef and sommelier, Zacarías is puts his myriad experience to use on collaborative projects that intersect and explore food, wine, hospitality, media, consulting and design through a queer-centric lens.

“Gastronomy has room to achieve more by simply providing more room for voices, stories and different narratives.”

Jenny Dorsey 

The Chinese-American chef changing the world one conversation at a time

Jenny Dorsey is many things – a chef, an artist, a culinary consultant and the social entrepreneur behind Studio ATAO, a non-profit in Los Angeles that creates educational tools, resources and spaces to inspire, promote and accelerate social transformation in the gastronomy industry in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion. Founded in 2017, ATAO stands for All Together at Once and believes that social change happens one relationship at a time. Through educational platforms and community-based research, the non-profit empowers people and organisations to advance systems-based change through a social-justice lens. Jenny says that often “activism doesn’t happen because there is no vocabulary or energy for it,” so she has created workshops and cultivated a sense of trust, giving people the space to talk about social justice by giving it both importance and a voice.

A Chinese-American, Jenny was born in Shanghai and grew up in Seattle. She worked as a management consultant in the fashion industry and was an MBA candidate at Columbia Business School, but felt this path was unfulfilling. During a sabbatical year, she decided to give cooking a try and studied at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. She later worked at top restaurants in New York and San Francisco before finding her voice by using food as a form of social activism and artistic expression. She now has her finger in many pies, working as a culinary consultant to a wide range of companies, writing cookbooks and appearing as a public speaker, with a 2020 Tedx Talk on how food can be a source of intimacy, identity and vulnerability. She was a finalist in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Competition and has competed on TV shows including Beat Bobby Flay.

Despite the accolades, Jenny recognises that resumé achievements “do not make us truly happy,” and such recognition has driven her to pursue a more fulfilling career. With her commitment to driving equity and change through food via a non-traditional path, she provides inspiration to others and paves the way for future generations of trailblazers. 

“Sometimes my food or the environments I create make people uncomfortable, and that’s the point. I don’t plan on being complicit with the way things are. I want to change the world with my art, even if it’s just one honest conversation at a time.”

Lefteris Arapakis

The angler-turned-teacher tackling ocean pollution

Born into a Greek family of fishermen, Lefteris Arapakis spent his life on the Mediterranean coast. Having inherited knowledge of a practice that has been passed down from father to son for five generations, Lefteris was quick to notice that the fishing industry is no longer thriving as it once was: more and more fishermen are having to compete with the rising tide of ocean waste. 

When the Greek economic crisis washed over the country in 2016, Lefteris stepped up to the plate with Enaleia, his not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to sustainable marine life and the education of young fishermen. The organisation faces both local challenges – such as the employment of small fishing communities – and oceanwide pollution, with initiatives such as the Mediterranean CleanUp. 

No doubt influenced by his education in business at the University of Athens, Lefteris has implemented innovative ways to create a circular economy and incentivise sustainable practices. Using the plastic brought to shore by fishermen, Enaleia collaborates with companies to create t-shirts and socks, upcycling waste and reducing carbon emissions. Lefteris’ plastic clean-up operations help to remove more than 1.5 tonnes of marine plastic every week. 

Riding the wave of success, Lefteris set his sights on improving not just Greece’s seas, but waters around the world. Mediterranean CleanUp now functions in Italy, and Lefteris has brought Bahari Safi to the shores of Kenya and it is already undertaking fast-moving action.

“I believe in the vital role that the fishing communities can play in driving climate action, mitigating marine plastic pollution and overfishing, given their broad knowledge and experience with the ocean and its particularities… Optimism and flexibility are our main weapons against climate crisis.”

Nidhi Pant

The community-minded scientist training women in sustainable agriculture

Born in the Himalayas into a family of farmers and raised in Bombay by scientist parents, Nidhi has been actively involved in helping her local communities from a young age, particularly in the wake of natural disasters.

Travelling between local villages and larger cities in the wake of earthquakes and floods, Nidhi noticed a paradox developing, with devastating hunger at one end, and food wastage on the other. Nidhi began looking for a solution for both problems simultaneously. S4S Technologies, an acronym for Science for Society, was established. Putting her degree in Chemical Technology to the test, Nidhi designed an electricity-free solar-powered food dehydrator that helps to alleviate vulnerable communities from hunger and help farmers preserve crop yields. The invention reduces the moisture content in agricultural produce, preserving crops for as long as a year without chemicals. 

Nidhi’s technology is particularly directed towards women in the industry and S4S trains landless female farmers how to use their machines as well as marketing and finance strategies. 

Nidhi has won many national awards for her advancements in food security and her dehydrator has received international recognition, but Nidhi doesn’t plan to stop there. S4S Technologies are currently working with over 12,00 farmers who provide the produce, and 800 female microentrepreneurs who process it. Nidhi works with major conglomerates including Nestlé and Unilever and is currently looking for ways to expand her company worldwide. 

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