(Topia) While the 50 Best brand is best known for its voter-selected restaurant, bar, hotel and even vineyard lists, one of the most dynamic projects to emerge from this award-bestowing organisation is 50 Next.
For many people, gastronomy means fine dining, but 50 Next and the Basque Culinary Center celebrate the art, knowledge and innovation across the entire food and drink chain, from farmers and producers to food distributors, sommeliers and even consumers.
Revealing the first Class of 2021 – young people under 35 who are shaping the future of gastronomy – in April of that year was a master stroke: a breath of positivity to cut through the stagnant pandemic haze. Backing from the prestigious Basque Culinary Center gives this new, unnumbered list greater kudos and a space for the new generation to be heard.
From activists to winemakers, and including entrepreneurs, farmers and scientists, to date 50 Next has named 100 game-changing producers, tech disruptors, empowering educators, entrepreneurial creatives, science innovators, hospitality pioneers and trailblazing activists from all around the world.
TOPIA asked seven 50 Nexters from the Classes of 2021 and 2022 how they will continue to change the game in 2023, what their dream ‘utopia’ scenario would be for the year ahead, and to ‘Pay It Forward’ by naming inspiring collaborators.
Ukrainian pastry pioneer
Dinara Kasko, Ukraine
“I see my cakes as edible design objects. Nothing lasts forever.”
A designer who started home baking in 2013, Dinara’s hobby became her job – and she fired up a confectionery revolution as Dinara Kasko Moulds. As a pastry designer, she makes 3D silicone moulds then teaches people how to use them. Currently a refugee in the UK, Dinara lost her studio and team: “Everything because of the war”. By starting, again, from scratch, she calls it the story that everything is possible.
“It’s difficult to talk about positivity when talking about 2022 because war started in my country, and we lost so much. But it is positive that we survived, that I’m alive and I can work: I saved my business. For 2023, our plan is to find new customers and audiences, between ordinary people and the professional community, by launching my latest designs.
Pay it forward ► Ukrainian chef Ievgen Klopotenko supports our country, and even though he is running different restaurants, he organises a lot of charity dinners and is an extremely positive person. He pays attention to the good things that are happening right now.
Ancestral culinary guardian
Jennifer Rodríguez, Colombia
“My goal is to strengthen our rural identity to safeguard our traditions.”
By celebrating local and sustainable produce through ancestral cuisine at Mestizo Cocina de Origen restaurant, Colombian chef Jennifer is safeguarding the culinary traditions savoured in Mesitas del Colegio, the mountainous village near Bogotá, where she was born, raised and today, cooks.
“Food prices are skyrocketing around the world. In a country like Colombia, where food is plentiful almost year-round, it is difficult to find a balance between a diner’s tastes and what the planet offers us. At Mestizo, we believe that if we can increase awareness of cooking with what there is, and of accepting the changes, we’d become more resistant to famines. I know this isn’t an easy task. We talk about local products, roots, identity and territory, but it’s time to focus. The main challenge in 2023 will be figuring out how to sustain a team by working fewer hours a week, undertaking fewer services while keeping the team together. We will undoubtedly need to learn to live with less, both minimising ourselves and making the most of what surrounds us, observing more and taking greater care of our planet.
Pay it forward ► Mario Mora Unigarro from El taller de los amasijos in Pasto, Nariño, works closely with communities in his region, and is working on solving the problems of seed preservation. Meanwhile, Bogotá-based Cristina Consuegra is an anthropologist and cook who has written many books about Colombia’s ecosystems, discussing the ecologies of care, reciprocity and abundance, as well as holistic science and sustainable living.
Scientific food waste innovator
Maitane Alonso Monasterio, Spain
“Life is for taking risks, especially with ideas that can have a social impact.”
The Basque-born researcher, medical student and co-founder of Innovating Alimentary Machines invented a revolutionary food preserving machine from some very random parts, such as a piece of a broken blind and tupperware; today her machine helps to reduce food waste and extends food’s shelf life.
“In 2023, I’ll be getting more involved in projects regarding sustainability, education and social impact. Food waste is a complex issue. It has a very important social component since a lot of people are still dying from hunger while we also waste a third of the world’s food production, according to the FAO. It’s also an environmental issue. When we throw away food, it’s not just food, but also the natural resources used to make it, such as water or soil. I strongly believe that sustainability is essential since we do not have another planet to live on; so it’s absolutely necessary to take care of the one we have.
My dream scenario for 2023 is brimming with innovation. However, innovation without purpose, doesn’t make sense: it needs to be environmentally and socially conscious. I do think that awareness is necessary, but I strongly believe it is time to stop talking and start taking actions that have an impact on people’s lives. There is no single action that will solve all of our problems as a society. Change will come from each and every individual action that each one of us undertakes, and together, is how we will build a better future.
Pay it forward ► Mexican 10-year old Viviana Alvarez started working on a sustainability project, and now, at 17, she’s planted more than 55,000 trees and restored more than 60 spaces via her Salvemos el Planeta (Let’s Save The Planet) project. Denis Ugalde, meanwhile, founded Oreka, a Spanish startup that helps recover food waste and donate it to people in need.
Alpha Sennon, Trinidad and Tobago
“It’s not my generation who will feed the world in 2050. The kids of today will.
On a mission to deliver agricultural inspiration and motivation to young people, farmerpreneur and educator Alpha founded the non-profit WHYFARM, which sows the seeds of agripreneurship, while aiming to achieve global food and nutrition security.
“In 2023, I will continue promoting agri-edutainment and the concept of ‘agrikoolture’ one child at a time. Our work in implementing school gardens, community food parks and training programmes will ensure communities are well nourished. We’re also working on an animated cartoon series based on our AGRIMAN AGventures comic books story lines to be used in conjunction with our other agri-edutainment tools and products for a holistic learning experience.
My Utopia for 2023 is that no child goes to bed hungry, and that they go to bed fully nourished. I want everyone to have easy access to nutritious foods produced through sustainable and climate-smart agricultural practices. I also envision a world in which farmers and food producers are treated with respect and properly compensated for their work. I believe everyone should gain a clear understanding of the roles we all can play in protecting and preserving the environment. A world in which there is zero food wastage and food is shared communally, with no one left out at the table.
Pay it forward ► Elon Robinson is a young farmer and agripreneur from Trinidad and Tobago who has created a new trend of hydroponics farming in rural communities through his company BetterGrow HydroFarm. His passion, drive and social-media presence has created a buzz around hydroponic farming and has inspired a lot of young Black people to get involved. Rachel Renie, meanwhile, has built new bridges and opened pathways for young agripreneurs in Trinidad and Tobago by founding D’Market Movers, a company that helps bring young farmers’ and agripreneurs’ farm-to-table initiatives to consumers across Trinidad and Tobago.
Gastrophysicist on a mission
Eneko Axpe, Spain
“Creating delicious food products out of waste can combat climate change.”
Basque-born gastrophysicist, NASA collaborator and Basque Culinary Center associate Eneko develops sustainable alternatives to food products that have a negative impact on the environment; he was also the first physicist to work for Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, which create plant-based meat substitutes.
“We’re working with mycelium [fungal threads network) to develop space food together with NASA and the three Michelin star restaurant Azurmendi. The dream would be to find a mycelium that grows fast on limited resources, has high protein content and is also delicious.
In 2023, I’ll be fighting for a sustainable food system. What we eat today is catastrophic for our planet; it’s the elephant in the room. We are already using more than half of the total habitable land on our planet for food production. Plus, the human population will grow from eight billion to 10 billion in under 30 years. How are we going to feed that amount of people with the limited resources our plant has? That’s what I’ll be fighting for.
Pay it forward ► I’m inspired by Pat Brown, a scientist and founder of Impossible Foods, and data scientist Hannah Ritchie from Our World in Data, because they are both trying to push the upcoming revolution: data-backed sustainable food.
Angler tackling ocean pollution
Lefteris Arapakis, Greece
“Fishermen can be part of the solution.”
Fifth-generation angler Lefteris tackles ocean pollution with his non-profit Enaleia, a social enterprise dedicated to educating fishermen. By using the plastic they bring to shore, the NGO not only cleans up coasts, it then upcycles waste and reduces carbon emissions, collaborating with companies to create new products such as T-shirts, socks, bags, swimwear – and a circular economy.
“In 2022, we started working with more than 500 fishermen in Kenya, setting up Bahari Safi (Clean Sea) , the biggest such ocean plastics cleaning initiative in East Africa. They will collect around 40 tons of plastic from the Indian Ocean every month, which will then be recycled to create new products; they will be paid for their work.
We are planning to scale up and fight plastic pollution in North Africa in 2023. The most common plastic waste in oceans comes from abandoned fishing gear, accounting for between 10 and 20 percent. By working with and educating communities, preventing that gear from reaching the ocean in the first place, we can reduce plastic pollution by 20 percent, which is significant and would be utopic for me.
The first session of United Nations negotiations for a new Global Plastics Treaty took place in December 2022 and if governments start implementing it in 2023, I believe we will no longer have a problem with plastic pollution in 10 years’ time.
Pay it forward ► I’ve worked with so many inspiring colleagues at Enaleia in the past year so it’s hard to choose just three! Nikos Therapos is our head of finance, who helped us scale up operations and create procedures, while fighting against plastic pollution. Konstantinos Giannakoupoulus is our circular economy manager in Greece who set up the recycling network himself; he also became a dad for the first time last year. Then there’s Zeta Kampardi, who manages all our fishermen; she’s always smiling and cheerful, and lifts me up.
Techie feeding the famished
Oscar Ekponimo, Nigeria
“Access to food should be a fundamental right of every individual.”
A software design engineer and entrepreneur who uses technology to improve the lives and well-being of communities, Oscar founded Chowberry Inc – Africa’s first app that aims to recover food waste and feeds hungry families by connecting consumers to food and produce that is at risk of going bad; to date 1.6 million meals have been distributed to food-insecure people.
“We are actively working behind the scenes and laying the infrastructure that would improve access to nutrition for Africans. In 2023, we envision approximately 10 million poor and vulnerable families having their health and wellbeing improved through access to quality food and nutrition.
What’s so good about this? 50 Next celebrates the young people, from farmers to scientists, who are moulding gastronomy’s future. The Classes of 2021 and 2022 have been revealed to date, shining a spotlight on 100 trailblazers under 35 and their work, whether it’s in the start-up phase or fully fledged business. It’s a dynamic addition to the 50 Best family that also includes The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, The World’s 50 Best Bars, 50 Best Discovery, #50BestTalks and, new for 2023, The World’s 50 Best Hotels.