Power List 2023

The Power List: Top 10 Food Titans

Meet the chefs, farmers and moguls changing the way we eat and drink
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Isha Datar, Barrie Murchie, Michael Medline, Riad Nasr, Janet Zuccarini, Mohammed Ashour, Jessica Rosval, Ted Fleming and Kirstin Beardsley

These are the chefs, farmers and moguls changing the way we eat and drink. Check out the full 2023 Power List here.

MORE: See who made the 2023 Maclean’s Power List

1. Galen G. Weston, the country’s most powerful—and controversial—grocery mogul

President, Loblaw

Click here to find out why Weston gets the top spot

2. Janet Zuccarini is a Toronto-born restaurateur—and Hollywood phenomenon

CEO, Gusto 54 Restaurant Group

Janet Zuccarini is the CEO of Toronto's Gusto 54 Restaurant GroupDuring the pandemic, Top Chef Canada judge Janet Zuccarini emerged as one of the country’s most ambitious restaurateurs, getting to work on six new spots under her company Gusto 54 Restaurant Group. Her total tally will soon go up to 16, with 14 restaurants running in Toronto, one in Los Angeles and one more set to open there this year. (She lives part time in Beverly Hills with her rock-star partner, the Band legend Robbie Robertson.) Stella is her upcoming Italian venture, set to open in an 8,000-square-foot West Hollywood space. Angelenos already know Zuccarini from Felix, which topped Esquire’s list of America’s best new restaurants in 2017, with their critic calling it “the incarnation of everything life ought to be.” That’s a hard act to follow, but topping her own achievements seems to be Zuccarini’s specialty.

3. Riad Nasr is bringing culinary star power back to Midtown Manhattan

Chef-owner, Le Rock

Riad Nasr is the chef-owner of Le Rock, based in New York City's Rockefeller CenterMontrealer Riad Nasr and his culinary collaborator, Lee Hanson, have known each other for almost 30 years. As chefs, they turned the SoHo brasserie Balthazar into a New York City legend, serving some 1,500 guests a day. Last year they did it again, this time as the owners of Le Rock, a brasserie and one of several restaurants comprising a superbistro in Rockefeller Center.

Tables in the lavish bronze and mahogany dining room have become some of the hardest to snag in Manhattan, with New Yorkers who once steered clear of 30 Rock cramming into leather banquettes for garlic-drenched escargot and bison au poivre.

 

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Le Rock boasts stunning food in an equally spectacular space

 The menu is also unapologetically French. Nasr has said he’s not interested in twists or new takes on the fare, and he’s hoping to pack the place elbow to elbow. He’s succeeded—and brought his buzz back to Midtown while he’s at it.

4. Michael Medline is bringing Farm Boys to every street

CEO, Empire Co.

Michael Medline is the CEO of Empire Co., parent of Sobeys, Safeway and FreshCoSix years ago, Michael Medline took over as CEO of the Nova Scotia–based Empire Co., parent company to Sobeys, Safeway and FreshCo, and pulled off a reversal of fortunes. The company’s profits had been tanking, but he boosted earnings per share from 11 cents in 2017 to 73 cents in 2022, racking up $30 billion in sales last year, thanks in part to aggressive expansion like the acquisition of Farm Boy and buying a majority stake in Longo’s. In September, Medline made waves with his defence of grocery store profits amid rampant inflation, declaring that he would not apologize for his company’s success. Later that fall, the House of Commons agriculture committee launched an inquiry into grocery industry price gouging. The investigation is ongoing, and with the 10th Farm Boy opening in Toronto this past February, so is Empire Co.’s growth.

5. Mohammed Ashour has a bug-first approach to solving world hunger

CEO & co-founder, Aspire Food Group

Mohammed Ashour is the CEO and co-founder of Aspire Food GroupProtein rich, environmentally friendly and dirt cheap, insects may be the food of the future. London, Ontario, became the epicentre of the bug boom thanks to insect farmer Mohammed Ashour, CEO and co-founder of Aspire Food Group. After raising $100 million, Ashour opened the world’s largest cricket farm in 2021. The automated facility can produce more than 12 million kilograms of protein from crickets, using roughly the space it takes to raise six cows. Most bugs are freeze-dried and blended into food for pets, but Ashour recently signed a multimillion-dollar contract with a South Korean confection company that will use Aspire’s cricket protein powder in bars and baked goods. Snacks are merely a glimpse of what’s to come: Ashour and experts believe insect farming can offer a solution to global hunger.

RELATED: Mohammed Ashour on why we need to embrace the future of farm tech

6. Kirstin Beardsley is tackling food insecurity at the root

CEO, Food Banks Canada

Kristin Beardsley is the CEO of Food Banks CanadaKirstin Beardsley stepped into the role as CEO for Food Banks Canada a year ago, at the toughest time in the organization’s 35-year history. As pandemic supports ended and inflation soared, people relying on their 4,750 hunger-relief organizations hit an all-time high: almost six million Canadians faced food insecurity. Beardsley set out to make sure those numbers—and the people behind them—weren’t forgotten. She became a fixture in the news and sat on panels demanding long-term policy solutions, like more affordable housing, higher minimum wage, universal basic income and better support for people with disabilities. In a Globe and Mail op-ed, alongside food advocates Michael McCain and Nick Saul, she put the federal government on deadline, asking them to commit to cutting food insecurity in half by 2030. Your move, Prime Minister.

MORE: Canadian food insecurity by the numbers

7. Ted Fleming is taking the booze out of craft beer

CEO & founder, Partake Brewing

Ted Fleming is the CEO and founder of non-alcoholic beer company Partake BrewingAlcohol may soon be as taboo as tobacco, and Ted Fleming is here for it. He’s the CEO and founder of Calgary-based Partake Brewing, maker of the bestselling boozeless beer in Canada. Since he founded the label on Kickstarter six years ago, 5,000 stores in North America have picked it up. His business will likely only grow bigger now that the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction recommended that people cut back to two drinks or less per week, down from 10 to 15 per week in 2011, to avoid risks of various cancers.

Turning away from alcohol is also generational: Gen Z drinks 20 per cent less than millennials, and non-alcoholic beer sales have more than tripled over the past decade. And Partake is here to stay. Fleming recently raised US$16.5 million, so nobody has to choose between their health and their beloved craft beers.

8. Barry Murchie is future-proofing our country’s greens

CEO, GoodLeaf

Barry Murchie is the CEO of hydroponic salad greens company GoodLeafIn December of 2022, GoodLeaf CEO Barry Murchie raised $150 million, a good chunk of it from McCain Foods, to expand the facilities of his hydroponic salad greens company. GoodLeaf’s growth has the potential to shield Canada from a supply-chain disaster: 90 per cent of the leafy greens we consume come from the southwestern U.S., most of them from California, where crops are being pummelled by disease, drought and flooding. The company’s cash infusion will allow its operations, which include a vertical greenhouse in Guelph, Ontario, to expand into Calgary and Montreal. Vertical farming is environmentally controlled, and indoor crops grown in these conditions are invulnerable to pests and climate hazards. Each of the two new facilities can turn out around two million pounds of greens annually, ensuring our access to homegrown salad bowls in the years to come.

MORE: Why vertical farming can solve many of our food problems in 2023

9. Jessica Rosval is cooking world-class Italian cuisine

Chef, Casa Maria Luigia

Jessica Rosval is the chef at Modena, Italy's Cash Maria Luigia restaurantTen years ago, after training as a chef in her home province of Quebec, Jessica Rosval had a life-changing meal during a trip to Modena in northern Italy. She convinced the chef, three-Michelin-star-earner Massimo Bottura, to hire her and soon became his protégé. In 2019, he chose her to lead the kitchen at his luxury bed and breakfast, Casa Maria Luigia. There, she has served multi-course Italian feasts (that start at €330 per person) to Stanley Tucci and the Obamas, earning the title of best female chef in Italy from Guida dell’Espresso, the country’s authoritative restaurant guide.

Casa Maria Luigia has earned rave reviews worldwide

In March of last year, she struck out with a side hustle. A leader in an industry known for being a boys’ club, she’s bringing new faces into the fold. At Roots, an eclectic Modena restaurant, she trains migrant women in the culinary arts and helps them bring their own dishes to the menu.

10. Isha Datar is paving the way to lab-grown meat

Executive director, New Harvest

Isha Data is the executive director at cellular agriculture firm New HarvestIsha Datar is so influential in the field of cellular agriculture that she even coined the term. It refers to the process of harvesting animal cells, growing them in bioreactors and eventually passing the resulting meat to recipe developers, who turn it into highly believable burgers, chicken breasts, bacon and more. As executive director at the non-profit New Harvest, she believes her organization’s R&D should be freely accessible to serve the future of food, not closely guarded intellectual property. And so she recently announced the new Institute of Cellular Agriculture at the University of Alberta, a research hub and startup incubator that aims to rapidly advance the field and solve some of the most pressing problems caused by factory farming—greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation—all through the science of making meat without animals.

Check out the full 2023 Power List here


This article appears in print in the March 2023 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Buy the issue for $9.99 or better yet, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for just $39.99.