Last Thursday, the Telegraph Food team met for lunch at a top-secret basement location – okay, it was Temper in Soho – armed with a longlist, a laptop, a whiteboard and a fistful of Post-It notes. Several hours and about half a goat later, we’d arrived at a rough draft of what you’re about to read: a snapshot of who we reckon is currently who in the world of food.
Power, we decided, didn’t quite mean the same as financial clout in this context; it was more about influence - the people who made the cut were the ones we felt are shaping the way we eat, drink and think right now.
This forced us to make some hard choices. Merely being a National Treasure wasn’t, in the end, quite enough; we also had to exclude some excellent writers and communicators who we all agreed to be a good thing, but finally felt were reporting on what was happening, rather than causing it to happen.
It wasn’t plain sailing. Some of us showed a terrier-like devotion to this producer or that chef. There were frank exchanges of views about regional balance, diversity (we ended up with fewer women, and in particular fewer female chefs, than we had hoped to see) and so on. But in the end, dragging our whiteboard up the stairs and blinking in the late-afternoon sun, we felt we’d arrived at a list that we could all stand by. Or maybe it was the mezcal sorbet. Anyway: here’s the list. We hope you enjoy it – and agree with at least some of it.
Chefs & restaurateurs
Took “nose-to-tail eating” from quirky calling card to common practice. And he is still innovating, with an all-day lunch planned at his restaurant, St John, for 120 people during London Food Month.
“Nose-to-tail is basically about common sense, which is a dull concept, but it makes sense to eat the whole beast. It’s delicious, it’s wonderful, it’s goes hand in hand with seasonality. I’m surprised by the success of the idea - we’ve convinced quite a few people now, and the restaurant is still going strong after 20 years. But there’s still some way to go.” - Fergus Henderson
At his ground-breaking gastropub The Hand & Flowers, and in his cookbooks and media work, Kerridge has reinvented everyday British classics through the use of first-rate ingredients and a forensic attention to detail.
“Proof that you don’t have to be a dick to succeed... A star in the eyes of the next generation of chefs; so many cite him as influence.” (SH)
His establishments have set the restaurant agenda since Polpo opened in 2009. Polpo Exeter launched this year, and Spuntino Bristol is imminent.
“A skilled restaurateur with frightening attention to detail.” (SH)
The Spring chef has a firm touch in business and is fiercely protective of her staff. Her community pop up, Table, launches in May.
“Has her own innate style. Always reminding us what simple and seasonal cooking means.” (DH)
Chris Corbin & Jeremy King
Restaurateurs (Bellanger; Brasserie Zédel; Delaunay; The Wolseley) driving the Proper Brasserie Revolution.
“Masters at combining relaxed eating with real glamour. And they set the standard when it comes to service.” (DH)
Karam, Sunaina and Jyotin Sethi
The family behind London’s award-winning Gymkhana, Bao, Lyle’s, plus Trishna, Hoppers, and more.
ORDER THIS: Gua bao at Bao in Soho: fluffy white steamed buns, filled with braised pork, sprinkled with peanuts.
The ambitious young chef behind The Clove Club and Luca. A World’s 50 Best Restaurants regular; Britain’s highest entry at no.26 this year.
“A very intelligent chef with great ideas.” (SH)
Sam and Eddie Hart
The proprietors of Barrafina, London’s acclaimed small-plates, no-reservation restaurants (and also the pair behind Quo Vadis and taco joint El Pastor) redefined tapas, fuelling the growing nationwide interest in Spanish food.
“Exemplary restaurateurs.” (DH)
The chef at Hedone, a tiny restaurant in Chiswick, has had a huge influence on fellow chefs. Makes the best bread in London.
“His speciality is getting hold of great ingredients and this has had a huge impact on other restaurants.” (SH)
Shamil and Kavi Thakrar
Founders of Dishoom, London’s incredibly popular Indian-inspired restaurant chain, now expanding beyond the capital with a new outpost in Edinburgh.
ORDER THIS: Dishoom’s signature bacon naan roll: The Ginger Pig butchery’s smoked streaky bacon served in a soft naan with cream cheese, coriander and chilli tomato jam.
One to watch
Bringing an inspiring, Nordic-tinged style of cooking to Scotland, at the beautiful Inver restaurant in Strathlachan.
The Devon-based chef behind The Seahorse in Dartmouth (seahorserestaurant.co.uk), and who founded the rapidly expanding Rockfish fish-and-chip chain, champions sustainable fishing. Tonks works closely with Hawksmoor, Hix and Barrafina restaurants in London.
ORDER THIS: The Seahorse is known for fish cooked over charcoal: try the brill.
“We base everything on freshness and integrity: when we say we have fresh fish, we really mean it. The other element is that we’re not about new-fangled conceptual stuff – we’re about good, old-fashioned hospitality. I certainly see a lot of seafood restaurants using our style and dishes, and I find it a great form of flattery. We’re very happy to share our ideas and supplies.” - Mitch Tonks
CEO of Conviviality. With a portfolio of around 6,500 wines, the company is the biggest operator in the UK wine world, supplying 23,000 pubs and restaurants
Jancis Robinson OBE
The foremost wine writer and author of our times and hugely successful website founder.
“She is the living and breathing international encyclopedia of wine, who sets a global standard for wine knowledge.” (VM)
CEO of Majestic Wines and founder of Naked Wines.
“His marketing style, although sometimes controversial, is innovative and influential.” (SA)
“His ground-breaking approach to cocktail creation sets the trends for the rest of the world.” (AB)
DRINK THIS: Get the taste ready-mixed at home with Mr Lyan’s Spotless Martini (£27.95, masterofmalt.com)
Aka the multi-award-winning bartender and consultant Mr Lyan.
“White Lyan, the first bar I opened, was fairly revolutionary. We threw little away, embraced bottled cocktails, and put traditional bar service at front and centre. We’ve seen an amazing response.” - Ryan Chetiyawardana
James Watt and Martin Dickie
Brewdog’s Scottish founders, whose 10-year-old company was valued at £1bn after recent investment by a private equity firm, have taken craft-style beer mainstream.
“Their rise has been phenomenal, proving that there are good hops behind the hype.” (AB)
Eric Narioo and Doug Wregg
Of importers Les Caves de Pyrene; leading distributors of artisan, low-intervention wines and creators of the Real Wine Fair.
Oversees whisky, rum and tequila brands such as Johnnie Walker and Captain Morgan and MD of the Futures arm of the all-powerful Diageo group.
A leader of the craft distilling movement, with his own Burleighs Gin in the East Midlands. Last year, Baxter designed and built five distilleries for other brands, with many more to come this year.
“The quiet industry figure behind the new flashy gin trend.” (SA)
DRINK THIS: Burleighs Signature London Dry Gin (£32.50, burleighsgin.com) with tonic and a twist of orange zest or wedge of fresh grapefruit.
“Gin has become trendy thanks to advertising from the big boys, interest in cocktails and the rise of craft distilleries. I’ve been building distilleries since 2006 – that, and our use of unusual botanicals, has really helped us.” - Jamie Baxter
The Fever-Tree co-founder and CEO, whose premium mixer brand shook up the way we make a G&T.
David Gleave MW
At Liberty Wines, works with top-end Australian and Italian wines and sources some of the best producers for both retail and restaurants.
The creator of non-alcoholic botanical-based Seedlip woke up the drinks industry to the need for sophisticed soft-drink options.
Producers & innovators
As Director of Product Development at M&S, Chapman is the quiet force behind the country’s first ready-made chicken Kiev back in 1979, curries and pre-packaged sandwiches, not to mention Percy Pig (who turns 25 this year) and the coming summer’s glorious Mediterranean range.
Gave up a career with the BBC’s Russian service to open his own sourdough bakery, championing naturally fermented bread. Started talking about the woes of the Chorleywood process before anyone else.
“Whitley’s Real Bread Campaign remains vitally relevant.” (XC)
The CEO of Ocado changed the way we shop for food. The online food shop has built a significant breadth of relationships with producers and brands, including the excellent fruit and vegetable supplier Natoora.
Founder of Neal’s Yard Dairy and the man who led the renaissance of British cheese.
“The Big Cheese himself – he changed perceptions of British food worldwide.” (XC)
Smith’s Real Junk Food cafés, which operate on a pay-as-you-feel basis, have expanded from the original Leeds branch to hundreds of locations across the UK and worldwide. His food-waste-awareness programmes are now being rolled out in schools.
“Turns food destined for the bin into meals that have fed over half a million people in 30 months.” (SA)
“It was December 2013 that we started the first cafe and since then we’ve had global exposure and exponential growth. The public has become more receptive to using food that would otherwise have been thrown away, even though there’s more food waste than ever before. People are changing their attitudes, and there’s so much room still to grow. We’ve hardly started.” - Adam Smith
Deliveroo’s founder has revolutionised the takeaway for city-dwellers. Launched just four years ago, it covers 100 towns and cities with plans for further expansion.
“For me, it was about finding a way to get high-quality food from great restaurants to customers quickly. When I was working late in New York, I could get whatever food I wanted delivered straight to my door, but when I started working in London I realised this wasn’t an option here. I wanted to make great food from people’s local restaurants available to them, wherever they are in the world.” - William Shu
Head of the Guild of Fine Foods, which champions producers and independent food shops. The Guild’s Great Taste Awards has grown to include 10,000 foods, each one rigorously judged by experts.
“Spot one of the black and gold stickers on a packet, and you’ll find delicious food inside.” (XC)
The former head of the Soil Association and the founding director of the Sustainable Food Trust (which campaigns to improve our food production methods), is an eloquent advocate of chemical-free farming.
“Holden is pragmatic as well as passionate.” (XC)
Lindley’s brand, Ella’s Kitchen, has taken over the baby-food market with its lightweight, practical, organic pouches. Founded in 2006, it now has a 30 per cent share of the market.
The founder of the Brindisa brand, which encompasses delis, tapas restaurants and online food shop. The go-to supplier for exceptional Iberico ham.
“Linton encourages the nation’s growing love of Spanish cuisine with her shrewd selection of products.” (AB)
Swift founded the Monmouthshire-based Trealy Farm, which kickstarted the UK charcuterie movement, inspiring suppliers and producers by using European preserving methods while celebrating British meat.
The Northern Irish meat guru who supplies Mark Hix and Fortnum & Mason, along with some of the top restaurants in the UK and Ireland. The first person in the UK to use the salt-ageing method.
TRY THIS: Moyallon bacon chop with Wye Valley rhubarb sauce at Hix Soho.
Head of Tea at Taylors of Harrogate and responsible for Yorkshire Tea, the foodies’ favourite black tea whose sales are burgeoning while the likes of PG Tips and Tetley decline (Yorkshire’s market share has grown by 50 per cent since 2013).
Fans understand that her late-blooming success is the fruit of a lifetime’s hard work: even if uncertain times lie ahead post-Bake Off, she’ll continue to inspire affection and trust.
One of the greatest food broadcasters of her generation. Lawson’s recipes – and her performing style – are a seemingly impossible mixture of practicality, sensuality and wit. Look out for a new television series this autumn.
“Because of her television profile people tend to forget how brilliant Lawson’s writing is. She has a poised, assured, elegant voice.” (DH)
Dan Saladino and Sheila Dillon
The pair behind the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme influence the influencers.
“The breadth of stories these two unearth is breathtaking, and their Food and Farming Awards are an essential event for those who care about and love food.” (DH)
LISTEN TO THIS: Download The Pizza, in which Saladino charts the rise, fall and rise of the Neapolitan tradition.
The cheeky chappie who first understood that young people like to cook gutsy, informal food and aren’t too fussy about quantities is now in his forties, but his energy is undimmed; Oliver continues to use his success for good as a campaigner.
The writer and restaurateur has driven the nation’s love for veg-focused Middle Eastern cuisine. Got a pot of sumac in your cupboard? Ottolenghi can take the credit.
Most powerful online
With 1.8M followers on Instagram, the former personal trainer’s Lean In 15 is the second-biggest selling cookbook of all time – and he’s the bestselling non-fiction author of 2016.
Aka Deliciously Ella. Her brand has grown from bestselling books to delis, to products on the supermarkets shelves. Currently navigating the clean-eating backlash, she still has huge social media clout among the young: 1M followers on Instagram; 174K on Twitter.
“Much of the nutritional advice may be dubious, but let’s be positive for a moment – the likes of Ella have done a fantastic PR job for eating more vegetables where government has failed.” (XC)
This London-based social-media darling keeps the Insta-foodies (including his 157K followers) abreast of restaurant openings.
The Angry Chef
One to watch
Aka Anthony Warner. Cuts through the pseudo-science rife in the food world. His book Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating (Oneworld, £12.99, out in July) promises to skewer food fads. Brave, smart and – yes – angry.
From beloved GBBO winner to columnist and TV presenter. Nadiya’s British Food Adventure launches in July 2017.
Britain’s foremost campaigning food journalist; author of seven agenda-setting books on food issues.
READ THIS: Blythman’s latest, Swallow This (Harper Collins, £8.99) tackles the murky world of convenience foods.
A critic with a broad reach, a light touch and a deep knowledge of the business. Respected by restaurateurs, chefs and readers.
“Fiercely knowledgeable and writes like an angel.” (DH)
Rick Stein and David Pritchard
No one who has eaten Stein’s sea bass curry could deny his chops as a chef-restaurateur; but we include him here for his food-seeking TV travelogues – despite making our favourite restaurant in Venice, Antiche Carampane, even harder to get into – along with veteran producer David Pritchard, who found in Stein a more urbane successor to the wayward genius Keith Floyd.
“Pritchard changed food on television from being staid, instruction-led programmes into hedonistic, fun-loving romps. God knows what food television in this country would be like without him.” (DH)
Through ten books and 13 years as a Telegraph columnist, she shows us how to take influences from all over the globe and serve them up with ease.
COOK THIS: Mash chopped dill into softened butter and spread beneath (and all over) the skin of a 2kg chicken, then squeeze over a lemon and push the shells into the cavity with some dill stalks. Roast at 200C/Gas 6 for 20 minutes, add sliced leeks and potatoes to the tin with 400ml stock and a splash of vermouth, then cook for a further hour at 180C/Gas 4.
From A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry (Octopus Books, £20)