50 Next: The World’s young gastronomy game-changers

Young food innovators at the 50 Next ceremony
8 young food innovators at the 50 Next ceremony
Photo: Dave Holbrook

50 Next is created by the organization behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It’s an unranked list of young people who are doing great things to shape the future of gastronomy. On June 24, 2022’s 50 Next line-up was revealed at a live ceremony in Bilbao.

So, what is 50 Next all about?  

50 Next doesn’t have a first, second, third or last place. It’s a list without ranking, which means it’s as good to be no. 45 as it is to be no. 2.  

50 Next saw the light of day in 2021, when the organization behind the famous World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, created the concept. 50 Next celebrates people aged 35 or younger who are using their passion and talent to ensure that the world of gastronomy keeps evolving.

When it comes to the age limit, exceptions can be made for applicants who have recently started a new career path. Common for each person on the list is that they have brought game-changing ideas to the food industry.

How are these young innovators selected? 

After an open call where applications and nominations for 50 Next keep rolling in, hours and hours of solid research takes place at the Basque Culinary Center, based in San Sebastián, in the Basque region of Spain. Here the focus is to find bright, young minds who have transformed creative ideas into reality.

This is what the 50 Next searchlights are aimed at: 

These ground-breaking innovators are found all over the world.  

Highlights from the 50 Next Class of 2022 

Photo: Dave Holbrook

Gastronomy heroes from 30 different territories across 6 continents are featured in this second-ever edition of 50 Next.  

The list is divided into 7 categories. Here are some highlights!

Hospitality pioneers — bringing about change in dining and drinking 

A orange cocktail with ice in a low glass. Decorated with mushrooms and herbs.
Photo: Ash Edmonds

Jackwing Yao, Lola Liu and Tiger Liang 
Age: 31, 30 and 27 
China 

These three mixologists are carving out a new standard for female bartenders in Asia and the rest of the world. Using traditional Chinese spirits, they conjure up modern drinks that have roots in Chinese culture. Jackwing, Lola and Tiger work for hoteliers Bastien Ciocca and Andrew Ho’s Hope Group, which during the pandemic adapted to the restrictions by creating a canned cocktail delivery service.

Tiger is mixing drinks behind the bar at China’s first speakeasy, Hope & Sesame Guangzhou. Here she experiments with rescued food products and seasonal fruit from a small bar garden to create drinks inspired by Cantonese culture.   

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

Mmabatho Molefe 
Age: 27 
South Africa 

Mmabatho Molefe is the head chef and owner of the Cape Town restaurant Emazulwini. At her restaurant, the menu is full of traditional Nguni and Zulu dishes made from ingredients that aren’t usually recognized in fine dining. Some examples are ulimi noshatini, slow-cooked, thinly sliced ox tongue with tomatoes and uphuthu namasi, a Zulu dessert made with sour milk.

Restaurant Emazulwini is run by an all-black, all-female team, thereby strengthening racial representation while showcasing the value and diversity of Nguni and Zulu cuisine. 

Mette Brink Søberg 
Age: 32 
Denmark 

Working from a small greenhouse outside five-time World’s Best Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, Mette is the mind behind many of the restaurant’s iconic dishes such as celeriac shawarma. According to Noma’s chef-owner, René Redzepi Mette’s creative solutions have no limits.

Never afraid of failing and constantly fine-tuning ideas Mette creates groundbreaking dishes. Having been promoted to head of R&D at Noma, Mette is still working in the kitchen while encouraging a kinder work environment that supports mental health and a good work-life balance. 

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.” – Mette Brink Søberg 

Tech disruptors — using technology to solve food-and-drink world problems 

Fengru Lin 
Age: 34 
Singapore 

Fengru Lin is co-founder and CEO of the biotech company TurtleTree. The company produces delicious milk alternatives by using cells extracted from mammals. The aim is to reduce the world’s use of animal products and thereby also the negative impact the production of these has on the environment. 

Mustapha Diyaol-Haqq 
Age: 22 
Ghana 

Mustapha taught himself to code by watching tutorials on YouTube. Today, at only 22, he is co-founder of the Okuafo Foundation, which has developed an app that makes it possible for farmers to detect pest infestation in crops by scanning them. The app doesn’t only help farmers it also protects the environment and people from harmful pesticides. 

I see a future where people are more conscious of how their food is grown and consumers will choose food grown sustainably.” – Mustapha Diyaol-Haqq 

Nick Berry 
Age: 34 
Australia 

Nick is an engineer who has developed a wide range of chemical-free agricultural machines. His most notable invention is the aptly named Seed Terminator, which destroys weed seeds before they can turn into weeds that hurt valuable crops. His invention is a good step on the way to reducing the world’s growing use of pesticides. 

Entrepreneurial creatives — merging culture, art and culinary creativity 

Photo: Dave Holbrook

Juan Pablo Medina 
Age: 29 
Denmark 

Juan Pablo is CEO and co-founder of the company Kaffe Bueno. Their goal is to do something good for the planet while helping Columbian coffee farmers improve their livelihoods. Kaffe Bueno upcycles coffee grounds from hotels and other businesses and uses them as ingredients in cosmetics, skincare, haircare and products for baking. 

Camila Fiol Stephens 
Age: 34 
Chile 

Camila is a pastry chef and educator who creates innovative sweets with unusual flavour combinations. Her selection includes chocolate biscuits with Italian hard cheese, or bacon, vanilla and smoked butter. Camila has her own pastry shop in the Chilean capital, Santiago, and has even worked as a researcher and pastry teacher at the Basque Culinary Center’s BCC Lab. By paving her own way in gastronomy, she has become a role model for a new generation of creative gastronomy innovators. 

Oscar Ekponimo 
Age: 36 
Nigeria 

Nigeria is a country where many people struggle with access to food. Oscar wants to change that. His app Chowberry enables grocery stores and supermarkets to connect with NGO’s that can make sure their food and food products are distributed to low-income families.  Oscar is also the founder of the Chowberry Foundation where the aim is to empower communities and make the world’s food system more equitable. 

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 

Science innovators —  coming up with unique solutions for the culinary world 

Asrar Damdam 
Age: 29  
Saudi Arabia 

Saudi Arabian scientist and researcher, with a PhD in electrical and computer engineering, Asrar Damdam arrived in Silicon Valley with an ambitious goal. She wants to reduce global food waste by 50% before 2030 turns to 2031. One of the first steps in her mission is a biotech startup that produces food containers and storage units that destroy harmful bacteria with ultraviolet light.

Asrar’s inventions and research help keep fruit and vegetables fresh for a longer time, without the use of chemicals or heat. In other words, she brings us closer to a more sustainable future with better food security for everyone. 

Eneko Axpe 
Age: 35 
USA 

Physicist, Eneko Axpe’s has worked for NASA, where he developed biomaterials that prevent bone loss in astronauts. When he learned that food production is the culprit behind 37% of global emissions of greenhouse gas, he decided to put his skills to use in the gastronomy industry.

Eneko’s research is aimed at creating more sustainable alternatives to meat and other foods that have a negative impact on the environment. Joining Beyond Meat in 2019 as their first physicist, he helped improve the textures of plant-based meat products.

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

Trailblazing activists — fighting for equality, diversity and positive action in gastronomy 

Nicola Kagoro serving her vegan dishes
Photo: Dave Holbrook

Nicola Kagoro 
Age: 33 
Zimbabwe 

Nicola Kagoro devotes her time to spreading knowledge about plant-based cuisine across borders in the African continent. She wants to help people gain skills that allow them to cook delicious and affordable meals without animal products. To achieve this, Nicola’s company African Vegan on a Budget collaborates with companies and individuals who are eager to learn more about vegan cooking.

Nicola also works with the Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) where her focus is to empower women to restore natural wilderness areas, thereby reducing the risk of trophy hunting of animals. 

Zacarías González 
Age: 37 
USA 

Zacarías González is a queer Cuban American artist, chef and sommelier devoted to lifting and strengthening the voices of queer people and people of colour in the world of gastronomy. He runs the creative studio Ediciones where a myriad of food and community projects set sail. The print publication Warm Cake, co-founded by Zacarías, publishes interviews with queer, black, trans, femme and non-binary chefs and bakers. 

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

Game-changing producers — fueling the supply chain with creative power 

Jessica Fong 
Age: 31 
Hong Kong 

Can you grow fresh produce in a densely populated city like Hong Kong? Jessica Fong can answer that question with a resounding YES! Since 2017 Jessica’s company Common Farms has used a network of vertical urban farms to grow fresh, nutritious and pesticide-free food all year around.

Using only organic soil, compost, LED lights and aquaponics technology, Jessica’s farms grow 10 times as much produce as an outdoor farm of equivalent size. What makes this even more impressive, is that the produce is grown using 95% less water than is used in conventional produce growing. 

Pol Contreras Vilapriñó 
Age: 36 
Spain 

Culinary creative, Pol Contreras Vilapriñó has created what some chocolate experts have called “fifth chocolate”. This chocolate is made from cocoa mucilage, the white pulp surrounding the cocoa bean. At his company, Chocolates Pol Contreras, he experiments with new cacao products to bring the bean-to-bar movement to new levels.

Pol doesn’t only produce chocolate, he also brews cocoa husk stout, wine from Indian Cocoa husk and makes textile dyes from husk waste. Unique varieties of chocolate beans from Venezuela, Madagascar and Papua add another layer of game-changing to Pol’s innovative chocolate journey.

Empowering educators — sharing knowledge about food and development to transform society 

Chloé Charles 
Age: 35 
France 

Chloé Charles has gained her cooking experience by working at top restaurants in France. Sharing the kitchen floor with sustainability-focused tutors such as François Pasteau, Chloé has absorbed the importance of doing everything in her power to avoid food waste.

Using her skills and no-waste mindset to create flavourful, simplistic dishes in her own kitchen wasn’t enough for her. To do even more and share her knowledge, Chloé established herself as a food consultant, lighting a more sustainable path for companies and brands.  

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. – Chloé Charles 

Vinesh Johny 
Age: 33 
India 

Vinesh Johny’s passion for pastry started bubbling after he graduated in hotel management at Christ University in Bangalore.

To his disappointment, no schools in India offered specialized baking courses. He could have travelled abroad to study, but rather than doing that and leaving things as they were, he decided to start India’s first international baking school, the Lavonne Academy of Baking Science & Pastry Arts in Bangalore. Thanks to Vinesh’s decision and willpower, pastry arts is now a possible career choice in India. 

The gastronomy industry is kept alive by passion and creative power

These are just some highlights from the impressive list of food innovators and ideas. The 50 Next and their projects show us how much can be achieved if we are willing to challenge the current state of gastronomy.

It’s an industry that’s kept alive by changes, small and big. It needs to grow out into a beautiful network of different branches, carried by skills, passion, science and diversity.  
The complete list of 50 Next innovators can be found here.