50 Next: shaping the future of food

21st April 2021 | Eativity editors

The culinary experts behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants annual listing have unveiled the inaugural 50 Next. This honour roll of young people is defining the future of gastronomy. Designed to inspire, empower and connect the next generation of leaders, 50 Next celebrates people aged 35 and under from across the wider global food and drink scene. It includes producers, educators, tech creators and activists.

A list but not a ranking, 50 Next specifically celebrates people, complementing the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Bars. It was formed through robust research and analysis by 50 Next in partnership with the internationally renowned Basque Culinary Center.

“At a time of much-needed global recovery, 50 Next promotes positive, sustainable and visionary thinking,” says William Drew, Director of Content for 50 Best. “By bringing together this truly diverse list of young people, we are providing a platform for those fighting for a brighter future for gastronomy.”

50 Next: shaping the future of food
The inaugural 50 Next list, created by the organisation behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Representing Australia

The list represents the diversity of the global gastronomic scene, featuring people from 34 countries across six continents. Delving into the wider meaning of gastronomy, 50 Next is divided into seven categories. These include Gamechanging Producers, Tech Disruptors, Empowering Educators, Entrepreneurial Creatives, Science Innovators, Hospitality Pioneers and Trailblazing Activists. Each category is unranked and comprises a broad spectrum of professions. Those on the list are recognised for their overall contribution to the gastronomic ecosystem and their ongoing potential to drive significant positive change.

It’s no surprise, then, that the class of 2021 includes several Australians. Our land doesn’t just abound with nature’s gifts; it’s also renowned for its innovative and forward-thinking young food champions. You can read more about them below. You can also check out the full listing at theworlds50best.com

50 Next: Josh Niland

Gamechanging Producer

Josh Niland, 32, Sydney NSW

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

“If the world could see the potential yield of one fish being doubled, that would be one less fish removed from the ocean,” says butcher and chef Josh Niland. It’s a striking point, as the majority of people only cook with half the fish, throwing the rest away. Niland is on a mission to change that, teaching people to use the less-understood, underutilised parts of fish. Think the eyes, blood, bones and even sperm. All of these are used to create delicious, innovative meals. Simply put, he wants to change the way we catch fish; the way we transport, handle and preserve fish; as well as the way we sell, buy and cook it.

50 Next: Josh Niland
Niland has already won countless accolades for his work with fish.

Embracing the whole fish

Niland was born and raised in Maitland in NSW. He was just eight when he developed a Wilms tumour. He had a kidney removed and endured two years of chemotherapy. During his recovery, he found comfort in food and developed a deep interest in it. He cooked at restaurants around the world, including The Fat Duck, before opening his Sydney restaurant, Saint Peter, in 2016. Here, with wife Julie, he started a nose-to-tail fish revolution, specialising in sustainable fish while focusing on lesser-known species.

Subsequently, in 2018, he opened the Fish Butchery, selling innovative products such as dry-aged swordfish bacon and Murray cod fat caramel and stracciatella gelato on a stick.

While Niland has made great strides in changing people’s understanding of fish, there’s still a long way to go. He points out that others have spent a lifetime changing attitudes around meat. But his combination of passion and sheer talent will ensure he has a lasting legacy.

“My mission is to bring desirability to the whole fish,” Niland says. “It is neglectful, ignorant and, in truth, plain ridiculous that across the world, over half of fish is tossed in the bin.”

50 Next: Josh Gilbert

Empowering Educator

Josh Gilbert, 29, Gloucester NSW

The Australian farmer applying Aboriginal learning to contemporary constructs

Josh Gilbert’s family has been farming the same land in Gloucester for more than 40,000 years. This Worimi man can trace his lineage to the first recorded birth in a cave overlooking his family’s land. The knowledge he has garnered from generational learning has made him an undisputed authority on the country’s landscape.

It’s this passed-down Aboriginal wisdom that has seen Gilbert ascend to become a senior manager within PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Indigenous Consulting program. This aims to enact meaningful change in Indigenous communities by providing professional services, as well as assisting in government lobbying. He ensures Aboriginal people have a seat at the policy-making table, translating past wisdom and applying it to modern farming. As a result, he offers tangible ways for the two to interact in harmony.

Using Indigenous storylines, Gilbert is breaking current stereotypes. It’s led to a new understanding of the value of the environment, and also how agriculture and the food industry can coexist to fight climate change.

“There aren’t many Indigenous voices in the agricultural sector,” Gilbert says. “In particular, those doing research to connect traditional practices with current thinking and approaches. So I aim to bring all of this together for the benefit of all.”

50 Next: Jo Barrett and Matt Stone

Hospitality Pioneers

Jo Barrett and Matt Stone, 32 & 34, Melbourne, Vic

The sustainable chef duo rethinking the world’s future food systems

A culinary powerhouse respected by chefs the world over, Jo Barrett and Matt Stone have shown their commitment to preserving the planet over more than a decade of projects. While best-known for their work at Oakridge Wines in Victoria’s Yarra Valley region, Barrett and Stone are currently throwing themselves into Future Food System. The new venture will focus on growing food without the use of large-scale agriculture.

Renowned artist and environmental crusader Joost Bakker created Future Food System. It harnesses the power of solar energy and gas from a bio-digester to produce food in a zero-waste, self-sustaining home. Living inside the house in Melbourne’s Federation Square, Barrett and Stone serve a daily dish from ingredients grown on the property. This also helps to educate city dwellers on where their food comes from.

“We want to reconnect people to their food in a convenient, achievable way,” says Stone.

The Future Food System House in Melbourne
The Future Food System House in Melbourne.

An eye on the future

The couple met in 2012 at Bakker’s Greenhouse pop-up in Melbourne. Here, the restaurant’s philosophy of using hyper-local, organic ingredients had a significant impact on the pair’s culinary ideology. They then worked at Silo in the UK with chef Douglas McMaster before taking on the challenge of running the restaurant at Oakridge in 2015. Surrounded by local produce and native ingredients, they developed the winery restaurant in keeping with their sustainable philosophy and creative drive. They developed a signature Yarra Valley cuisine while making their names as Australia’s most forward-thinking sustainable chefs.

“The way we grow, harvest, transport, sell and eat our food is the most destructive human activity on the planet,” the pair says. “Something needs to change.”

To check out the full inaugural 50 Next list, head to theworlds50best.com