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The Industry 50 Next: The People in Asia Shaping The Future Of Food, According To The World's 50 Best

50 Next: The People in Asia Shaping The Future Of Food, According To The World's 50 Best

Artist Adelaide Lala Tam
Artist Adelaide Lala Tam
By Rachel Duffell
By Rachel Duffell
April 21, 2021
The inaugural 50 Next list from 50 Best, which features the young people who are driving change in the world of food and drink, includes six entries from Asia. We look at who they are.

The new 50 Next list celebrates people under the age of 35 who are shaping the future of gastronomy. Hailing from 34 countries across six continents, the 50 entries (some featuring pairs or groups of individuals) are unranked, with honourees divided into seven categories:

  1. Gamechanging Producers
  2. Tech Disruptors
  3. Empowering Educators
  4. Entrepreneurial Creatives
  5. Science Innovators
  6. Hospitality Pioneers and
  7. Trailblazing Activists.

Compiled through an open application process, whereby individuals could apply or nominate someone else, the list was whittled down from 700 candidates and finalised with the help of 50 Best’s Academic Partner Basque Culinary Centre.

Six entries include people based in Asia, with a further three featuring individuals originally from the region. Read on to see the full list of inspiring honourees and ones to watch who hail from Asia.

Related: Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants: See The First Ever Essence Of Asia List 2021

Louise Mabulo, 22, San Fernando, Philippines

Louise Mabulo of The Cacao Project
Louise Mabulo of The Cacao Project

Gamechanging Producer Louise Mabulo is a chef and the founder of The Cacao Project, an initiative that seeks to help farmers work sustainably and make a profit. The social venture came about following a typhoon in Mabulo’s home of San Fernando, Camarines Sur in 2016 when Mabulo, just 18 at the time, saw the impact of the typhoon on farmers’ livelihoods. Identifying that cacao plants were among the few crops still standing post-typhoon, her disaster relief assistance stretched into the longer term as she encouraged the planting of more resilient crops. The Cacao Project has helped more than 200 farmers plant 80,000 trees across 70 hectares to date and Mabulo hopes to extend her scope of work to include a series of chocolate products. In addition to her agriculture advocacy, Mabulo runs The Culinary Lounge, a farm-to-table kitchen space, which hosts workshops, pop-up dinners and other events.

Watch: How Ong Ning-Geng Has Carved A Name For Single-Origin Malaysian Chocolate

Jonathan Ng, 30, Singapore

Jonathan Ng of SinFoo Tech and Sachi
Jonathan Ng of SinFoo Tech and Sachi

Tech Disruptor Jonathan Ng seeks to find new uses for the waste generated in food production, which he does through SinFooTech, the company he co-founded.

Ng is also the founder of Sachi, the world’s first alcoholic beverage made from soy whey, a by-product of the manufacture of tofu. With a taste similar to sake, if a little fruitier, Ng’s current focus lies in scaling the brand, while also looking to find other substances which would otherwise go to waste, but which he can add value to by creating new and innovative products.

Cherrie Atilano, 35, Makati City, Philippines

Cherrie Atilano of Agrea
Cherrie Atilano of Agrea

Empowering Educator Cherrie Atilano started young. At the age of 12 she was already considering ways she could impart the knowledge she was gaining around sustainable farming to the producers where she lived. Later, armed with a degree in agriculture from Visayas State University, she established Agrea in Marinduque, an island province in the Philippines, which aims to develop a model so island economies can be self-sufficient and enjoy zero hunger and zero waste. She also puts women at the centre of the movement for better agriculture and rural development. Aside from Agrea, Atilano is co-founder of Hatienda Holdings, through which she aims to elevate local Filipino products, and is a Philippine food security ambassador and a UN Global Food Systems Champion who is working to change the image of farming.

Watch: Why Fine Dining Chefs Are Ordering Their Produce From Weeds & More

Siddhi Karnani, 30 and Anurag Agarwal, 34, Siliguri, India

Siddhi Karnani and Anurag Agarwal of Parvata Foods
Siddhi Karnani and Anurag Agarwal of Parvata Foods

Empowering Educators Siddhi Karnani and Anurag Agarwal are the founders of Parvata Foods, a socio-commercial enterprise that works with farmers in Sikkim and other North-Eastern Indian states who farm organically to integrate them into the value chain. The duo wants to elevate the living standards of these farmers while also empowering them with knowledge, technology and techniques to improve their agricultural practices and productivity. With 2,000 marginal and small farmers on board, Parvata Foods also operates an organic spice processing plant to add value to the products and offers on-farm collection services to farmers.

Natsuko Shoji, 31, Tokyo, Japan

Natsuko Shoji of Été
Natsuko Shoji of Été

Food, art and fashion come together for Entrepreneurial Creative Natsuko Shoji, who hails from Tokyo. The founder of Été, a private space where the pastry chef allows small groups of diners to sample her exquisite creations, Shoji formerly worked at renowned Tokyo restaurant Florilège, where in three years she worked her way up to sous chef. Going on to launch her private pastry kitchen, her haute-couture creations (Louis Vuitton and Chanel have often provided inspiration) enjoy something of a cult following––the young chef has created sweet treats for a range of celebrities at her intimate chef’s table.

Kisum Chan, 22 (from Hong Kong) and Lincoln Lee, 23 (from Malaysia), London, UK – and Zheyi Chia, 22, and Jonathan Ong, 24, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Rice Inc: Lincoln Lee, Zheyi Chia, Kisum Chan and Jonathan Ong (clockwise from top left)
Rice Inc: Lincoln Lee, Zheyi Chia, Kisum Chan and Jonathan Ong (clockwise from top left)

Did you know that up to 26 million tonnes of rice is wasted during production? Or that 70% of the world’s rice is produced by smallholder farmers without access to efficient drying equipment? On learning this London-based Science Innovators Kisum Chan and Lincoln Lee, both biomedical science students, decided they wanted to address such issues around rice production and founded social enterprise Rice Inc. The pair went on to team up with economics graduate Zheyi Chia, and Jonathan Ong, who has a background in accounting and management, both of whom are based in Kuala Lumpur, to start to advocate for sustainable rice on a global scale. The first step was to address efficiency––they started to provide producers with rice dryers and to educate them on how to operate more sustainably. Now the enterprise sells the rice, reinvesting its profits. In 2018 Rice Inc was awarded $1 million in the 2018 Hult Prize finals, a prestigious award which honours student start-ups.

Related: 6 Ways That Restaurants Are Serving Langit Collective Rice

Sana Javeri Kadri, 27, Oakland, USA (from India)

Sana Javeri Kadri of Diaspora Co.
Sana Javeri Kadri of Diaspora Co.

Entrepreneurial Creative Sana Javeri Kadri is the founder of Diaspora Co. A Mumbai native who moved to California in 2012, she soon realised how poor the quality of spices was in the US, while learning that the farmers in India who produced them earned as little as 1% of the final price of such products. Her mission then was to improve the quality but, most importantly, to ensure that the spice trade was fair for the producers in India. Her beautifully packaged spices allow her to empower indigenous farmers while delivering single-origin heirloom spices that are of high quality and sustainable.

Adelaide Lala Tam, 27, Rotterdam, Netherlands (from Hong Kong)

Artist Adelaide Lala Tam
Artist Adelaide Lala Tam

Hong Kongers may be aware of Entrepreneurial Creative Adelaide Lala Tam, who made a name for herself as a successful artist in her home of Hong Kong. On moving to the Netherlands to study, she began to focus her creativity on contemporary mixed-media installations that encourage viewers of her work to consider the way they eat and the harsh reality of industrial food production. Extensive research exploring the complexities of food production goes into her hard-hitting artworks.

ICYMI: Coffee News In Malaysia: % Arabica, Happy Stan And Nespresso

Divya Mohan, 29, Lund, Sweden (from India)

Divya Mohan of Ooble
Divya Mohan of Ooble

Hailing from Bangalore, but currently based in Lund, Sweden, Entrepreneurial Creative Divya Mohan is addressing issues of plastic consumption through her start-up Ooble. Not only is the young entrepreneur, who has a degree in biotechnology and a masters in food innovation and product design, starting by tackling the problem of plastic straws but she has ambitions to create other sustainable food packaging alternatives. What sets her product apart is that her alternative to plastic straws is edible. Made from cereal flours and plant oils, Ooble straws are flavoured when you eat them––currently chocolate or cinnamon––but don’t impart any of that flavour to the drinks they are used in; they also last in liquid for more than 45 minutes. Straws are just the beginning––the potential to create other products is enormous.

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