50 Next: meet 10 people changing the face of dining and drinking through produce

Mark Sansom - 18/10/2021

The Gamechanging Producers from the 50 Next Class of 2021 have taken it upon themselves to look at food and drink production through a fresh lens. Combining innovative techniques with respect for tradition, they are breaking barriers to get food onto plates, while helping the environment in the process. After meeting 50 Next’s Science Innovators, Tech Disruptors, Hospitality Pioneers and Empowering Educators, today we introduce 10 people growing the future with hope and positivity

Manuel Choqque

The cerebral farmer turning Peruvian potatoes into wine

Mashed, roasted, chipped, baked and fried – there’s no denying the humble potato is a versatile vegetable, but we would wager that you’ve never sampled potato wine. Tubers are a lifeblood to Peruvian people and Manuel Choqque has made it his life’s work to better understand the product that is so intertwined with his country’s culinary ecosystem. He began collecting ancestral potato varieties as a hobby, studying products from Inca and pre-Inca cultures that were no longer used. Today, he has more than 380 varieties of native potatoes, which he improves by imitating bees via manual cross-pollination.

During his research, Manuel discovered that the oca (oxalis tuberosa) contained high levels of sugar and therefore had the potential to be used for alcoholic beverages. After two years of research and experimentation, he launched his own oca wine, which he called Miskioca. The potatoes are pressed, the liquid is allowed to age for 60 days and then the nectar is bottled and sold for distribution. So good is the resultant product that many of Latin America’s top restaurants are stocking it – Virgilio Martínez’s acclaimed Central in Lima is one of Manuel’s biggest customers. By combining a passion for research with a discerning palate, this forward-thinking farmer is unlocking a whole new world of flavour in South America, which will soon be exported to the world.

Learn more about Manuel
Check out a detailed look into Miskioca and how potato wine came to be

Clara Diez

The Spanish turophile paving a new path for artisanal cheese

In terms of heritage products, there are few which have a greater genesis story than cheese. All corners of the dairy-producing world have been curdling milk for centuries to create some of the most varied, regionally specific foodstuffs on the planet. In many areas, cheese is elevated to art and Clara Diez is at the zenith of reporting on the craftsmanship that goes into production and the history surrounding it. With her company Formaje, she is raising the standard for traditional cheesemaking and immersing the customer in the production process.

Formaje’s physical home in a gallery-like shop in Madrid is where she amplifies the cultural value of artisanal cheese through talks and events. Here, she also selects and sells a selection of cheeses that carry the banner for best artisanal practices, from the quality of the milk to livestock feeding methods and the environmental impact of the production. As she prepares to take her brand of cheese education and sales to the world , Clara has created a product that is ripe for global expansion.

Learn more about Clara
Check our Formaje and its cheese workshops

Marianne Eaves
The master distiller enriching the palate of the whiskey industry

In her role as a bourbon baron, Marianne Eaves was named the first female Master Distiller in Kentucky since Prohibition. This is quite the accolade on its own, but when you consider the iconoclastic way she approaches whiskey in America, it is more impressive still.

She is employed as somewhat of a gun for hire, in that she flits between distilleries imparting her expertise on a project basis, before moving onto the next job. Most recently, she was engaged by Hoops Vineyard, California, who challenged her to create ‘something interesting’ from a crop of smoke-damaged Cabernet grapes from the 2017 wildfires in the region. Her response was to accentuate the earthy notes to produce a smoke-tainted brandy that will complete its ageing process at the end of 2021.

The drinks sector is staring down the barrel of a brave new world in spirit flavour profiles and Marianne is at the heart of its development.

Learn more about Marianne
Understand more about Marianne’s view on the spirits industry

Mark Emil Hermansen
The social anthropologist unlocking new flavour in cocktails

‘Empirical is a flavour company’, reads the branding for the company that Mark Emil Hermansen established with Lars Williams in 2017. More than just a slogan, it really does underpin everything the brand does, from its pioneering new genus of spirits and distillates to its range of hot sauces that are up there with some of the very best in the world.

Mark and the Empirical team are shaking up the traditions around spirit production through science and learning, employing some of the greatest minds in the world to do so. Using techniques such as double fermentation and low-temperature vacuum distillation, they are able to unlock unprecedented flavour profiles. They call their creations ‘freeform spirits’ and use unique and endemic species of flora, spice, grains, yeasts and herbs to create distillates and tinctures that challenge the strict traditions of the drinks sector.

Learn more about Mark
Check out Empirical and its flavour-focussed ethos

Louise Mabulo
The cacao connoisseur equipping Filipino farmers for sustainable success

In the last four years Louise Mabulo’s The Cacao Project has helped more than 200 farmers to plant 80,000 trees across 70 hectares of land. The company equips producers with the best cacao crops, as well as an education in how to make a living both responsibly and sustainably and it has been a true lifeline for small producers throughout and in the aftermath of the pandemic.

It all started when a typhoon destroyed crops in Louise’s home region of San Fernando, Camarines Sur, in 2016, leaving farmers with little or no income. Aged 18 at the time, she noticed the cacao plants were somehow still standing, and happened on an idea to transform local farming by cultivating the resilient and high-value cacao plant along with other short-term crops like bok choy, okra and pumpkin. What started as a typhoon relief initiative quickly turned into something permanent, which makes sure that farmers receive a fair price for the crop and future-proofs their farming systems for the long term.

Learn more about Louise
Check out The Cacao Project

Josh Niland
The groundbreaking cook and butcher sparking a fin-to-gill fish revolution

Fast becoming one of Australia’s most influential culinary voices, Josh Niland describes himself primarily as a ‘fish butcher’ before being a chef and restaurateur. He was among the first to apply a nose-to-tail (fin-to-gill) ethos to fish and extrapolate this globally, with the poignant and thought-provoking statement that “if the world could see the potential yield of one fish being doubled, that would be one less fish removed from the ocean”.

Josh encourages the use of less-understood fish cuts, such as the eyes, blood, bones and sperm, to create delicious, innovative meals. Simply put, he wants to change the way we fish, the way we transport, handle and preserve fish, and the way we sell, buy and cook it, too.

Learn more about Josh
Check out St Peter, Josh’s revolutionary fin-to-gill restaurant in Sydney, Australia

Jennifer Rodriguez

The bold cook reviving ancestral techniques and preserving rural Colombian cuisine7-1
In the remote mountain village of Mesitas del Colegio, some 60km from the Colombian capital, Jennifer Rodriguez has created a culture that celebrates local produce, traditions and ancestral cuisines. Brought up on hearty regional dishes like sancocho chicken stew that her grandmother Virginia cooked at her restaurant, Jennifer fell in love with cooking and opened her own restaurant, Mestizo, in 2009.

During the pandemic, Jennifer launched Pancoger, which had the focus of helping sell restaurant produce to locals in order to keep businesses afloat. She was able to keep her own restaurant trading and maintained the supply of scores of other businesses when they needed it the most. Next, she has big plans to expand her empire, raise the profile of indigenous Colombian food and to bring it to an international audience.

Learn more about Jennifer
Check out her company, Pacoger

Gian Marco Viano

The Italian winemaker breathing fresh life into a historic growing region

The terraced vineyards of northern Italy produce some of the most sought-after and highly acclaimed wines in the world, so when Gian Marco Viano discovered vast swathes of these historic growing regions were being sold to developers, he was quick to take action and snapped up one for himself to maintain it for the future.

A sommelier and front-of-house expert by trade, Gian Marco worked his way across Europe, but after a visit, he fell in love with Carema, a picturesque borgo on the border with the mountainous Valle d'Aosta region, which boasts a winemaking tradition dating back to 23BC. He has since begun producing red wines that are winning plaudits the world over and he is expanding his vineyard enterprise threefold over the coming years, clearing a path for other investors to preserve the ancient wine-making traditions in the area. His entrepreneurial spirit has breathed fresh life into the locality, prompting a renaissance for this northern Italian region.

Learn more about Gian Marco
Check out his vineyard, Monte Maletto

Mikel and Ion Zapiain

Basque brothers behind a new wave of cidermaking

Apples to Asturias are like grapes to Gascony and the Basque people are as serious about cider as they are about all the the gastronomic traditions of the region. With a family cider-making tradition dating back to 1595, brothers Mikel and Ion Zapiain are bringing this time-honoured profession into the 21st century. From their cider house in the town of Astigarraga, they are uncovering the true potential of a drink that has traditionally been associated with old customs and local traditions, and bringing it to the wider world.

While the cider-production techniques are traditional, their methods of marketing are not. They are one of the very few heritage producers in the Basque Country adopting modern methods of communication in order to tap into a younger market and, indeed, the Instagram generation. They plan to make cider the coolest drink of the 21st century, appreciated by the young and old alike.

Keep an eye on the 50 Next website for more developments and for information on the reveal of the next list of 50 Next in 2022