New Ranking of 50 Most Powerful People in Food Has Few Chefs, Fewer Writers

Categories: Talking Points

Thomas Vilsack: the most powerful man in food?
The Daily Meal has released its fourth annual list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Food, and the results are a little different than you may expect. Chefs don't appear until Jose Andres at #18 -- after that it's only Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (#26), Danny Meyer (#35), Thomas Keller (#37), Alice Waters (#39), and Tom Colicchio (#45). Journalists and writers have an even poorer showing, with New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells at #17, followed by Michael Pollan (#34), Food and Wine's Dana Cowin (#40), Mark Bittman (#42), and Bon Appetit's Adam Rapoport (#49).

So who makes up the majority of the list? Well, it's mostly CEOs.

Here's the Top 5:

  1. Thomas Vilsack, Secretary, USDA
  2. Hugh Grant, Chairman, President, and CEO, The Monsanto Company
  3. Doug McMillion, President and CEO, Walmart
  4. Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Food, Federal Drug Administration
  5. Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, Pepsi

It all makes sense when you consider the criteria, which focuses less on household names and more on people who can make a real difference in food policy or eating habits:

Our ultimate criterion was simply this: Is each person on our list capable, whether by dint of corporate station, media access, moral authority, or sheer personality, of substantially changing, improving, and/or degrading the quality and variety of the American diet or the way we think about it?

There are some interesting choices on there. Tech folks: the CEOs of Yelp (#9), Pinterest (#23), and Instagram (#24). James P. Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a group that transports food throughout the country (#6). Steve Spinner, CEO of United Natural Foods, Inc., a distributor that supplies food to Whole Foods and other natural markets (#30). The CEOs of Feeding America (#31) and Share Our Strength (#33).

Go, read about the folks that really have the power to create change in the food system, whether for better or worse.

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