50 Next: shaping the future of food

21st April 2021 | Eativity editors

The culinary experts behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants annual listing has unveiled the inaugural 50 Next, an honour roll of young people 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, from producers and educators to 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.”

The inaugural 50 Next list, created by the organisation behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

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: 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, with those on the list 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, and to check out the full listing, head to theworlds50best.com

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 in the trash. Niland is on a mission to change that by dedicating his life to teaching people to use the less-understood and underutilised parts of the fish like the eyes, blood, bones and sperm to create delicious, innovative meals. Simply put, he wants to change the way we catch fish; the way we transport, handle and preserve fish; and the way we sell, buy and cook it.

Niland has already won countless accolades for his work with fish.

Born and raised in Maitland in NSW, Niland was diagnosed with a Wilms tumour at aged eight – 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 numerous restaurants around the world, including Best of the Best restaurant The Fat Duck in the UK, before opening his Sydney restaurant, Saint Peter, in 2016. There, with his wife Julie, he started his nose-to-tail fish revolution, specialising in sustainable fishery and focusing on lesser-known species. In 2018, he opened the Fish Butchery, selling innovative homemade products like dry-aged swordfish bacon.

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 plain ridiculous that across the world, over half of fish is tossed in the bin.”

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. A Worimi man who can trace his lineage to the first recorded birth in a cave overlooking his family’s land, his knowledge and generational learning makes 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, whose purpose is to enact meaningful change in Indigenous communities by providing professional services and to assist in government lobbying. He ensures that Aboriginal people have a seat at the policy-making table, translating past wisdom and applying it to modern farming practices, giving tangible ways for the two to interact in harmony. Using Indigenous storylines, Gilbert is breaking current stereotypes, leading to new comprehension of the value of the environment and how agriculture and the food industry can coexist to fight climate change.

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

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, a new endeavour focused on growing food without the need for large-scale agriculture.

Founded by renowned artist and environmental crusader Joost Bakker, Future Food System harnesses the power of solar energy and gas from a bio-digester to produce food in a zero-waste, self-sustaining home environment. Living together inside the house in Melbourne’s Federation Square, Barrett and Stone serve a daily dish from ingredients grown on the property, educating 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 couple met in 2012 at Bakker’s Greenhouse pop-up in Melbourne, where 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, developing 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.”