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 latest list from 50 Best, the 50 Next list, celebrates the 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: Gamechanging Producers, Tech Disruptors, Empowering Educators, Entrepreneurial Creatives, Science Innovators, Hospitality Pioneers and Trailblazing Activists.

Compiled through an open application process where people could apply themselves 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 Center.

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: The Rising Stars of Hong Kong's Dining Scene And What They're Doing Now

Louise Mabulo, 22, San Fernando, Philippines

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

Gamechanging Producer and Gen.T honouree Louise Mabulo is a farmer, entrepreneur and chef, and is the founder of The Cacao Project, an initiative that seeks to help farmers work sustainably and future-proof their livelihoods. 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 like cacao. The Cacao Project has helped more than 200 farmers plant 80,000 trees 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, where she hosts workshops, pop-up dinners and other events.

Jonathan Ng, 30, Singapore

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Jonathan Ng of SinFoo Tech and Sachi
Above 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. Sachi is one such product. The world’s first alcoholic beverage made from soy whey Sachi is a by-product of the manufacture of tofu made using SinFooTech's patented fermentation technology. With a taste akin 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 through the creation of new and innovative products.

Cherrie Atilano, 35, Makati City, Philippines

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Cherrie Atilano of Agrea
Above Cherrie Atilano of Agrea

Empowering Educator and Gen.T honouree Cherrie Atilano wants to eradicate poverty for farming and fishing families in the Philippines. Hailing from Marinduque, an island province in the Philippines, she started looking at ways she could impart sustainable farming knowledge to sugarcane producers at the tender age of 12. Later, armed with a degree in agriculture from Visayas State University, she established Agrea, which aims to roll out a model to support island economies and enable them to become 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 spotlight their high quality, and is a Philippine food security ambassador and a UN Global Food Systems Champion and Nutrition Ambassador who is working to change the image of farming.

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

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Siddhi Karnani and Anurag Agarwal of Parvata Foods
Above 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

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Natsuko Shoji of Été
Above 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

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Rice Inc: Lincoln Lee, Zheyi Chia, Kisum Chan and Jonathan Ong (clockwise from top left)
Above 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 which significantly reduces their income? On learning this London-based Science Innovators Kisum Chan and Lincoln Lee, then both biomedical science students at UCL, decided they wanted to address these 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 look at efficiency––they started to provide producers with the technology to dry their rice, allowing them to increase their income, as well as 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 and which was presented by Bill Clinton at the UN.

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

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Sana Javeri Kadri of Diaspora Co.
Above 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 to go to university, 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 not only improve the quality but, most importantly, to ensure that the spice trade was fair for the producers in India. The producers she works with now––which include 12 farmers and more than 320 farm workers spanning six states––enjoy an average of six times more than the commodity price, while Diaspora delivers high quality and sustainable single-origin heirloom spices to consumers. 

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

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Artist Adelaide Lala Tam
Above 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.

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

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Divya Mohan of Ooble
Above 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 Innovations. 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––currently chocolate or cinnamon––so they are tasty to eat, but they 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 edible and functional items is enormous.

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