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Food & Wine's 40 Big Thinkers 40 & Under

40-big-thinkers.pngFrom the November issue of Food & Wine magazine comes the feature 40 Big Thinkers 40 & Under that eschews the olds and celebrates youthful idealism (and artisanal soy sauce making?). Says Food & Wine: "These 40 up-and-comers — all 40 years old or younger — are changing the way Americans eat and drink, from a vodka distiller who rewrote Nebraska's Prohibition-era laws to a White House chef who's fiercely fighting to improve school-lunch programs."

Among the list you will find food artist Jennifer Rubell, White House Food-Policy Adviser Sam Kass, Midtown Lunch blog network impresario Zach Brooks, writer and cookbook author Amanda Hesser, blogger/science nerd Kenji Lopez-Alt, and Icelandic yogurt maker Siggi Hilmarsson. See the full list:

Food & Wine's 40 Big Thinkers 40 & Under

1) Jennifer Rubell, Food Artist: Rubell, 40, creates the kind of interactive experiences that rarely happen at art galleries -- like encasing desserts in white balloons that guests have to figure out how to pop.

2) Siggi Hilmarsson, Icelandic Yogurt Maker: Iceland native Hilmarsson, 34, started making skyr - the thick, tangy yogurt of his homeland - and single-handedly popularized it across America.

3) Sam Kass, White House Food-Policy Adviser: Within three years, the 31-year-old Kass went from being the Obama family's chef to an unprecedented White House role that's a combination of chef, gardener, educator and policy adviser.

4) Zach Brooks, Food Blogger: Four years ago, the 34-year-old launched his Midtown Lunch website in Manhattan with the belief that a tasty, $10-or-less lunch is every worker's inalienable right.

5) Robert Litt, Urban-Farm Pioneer: When he opened the quirky Urban Farm Store last year in Portland, Oregon, the 39-year-old Litt officially became a trailblazer in the urban-homesteading movement.

6/7) Brett Beach and Tim McCollum, Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers: After doing volunteer stints in Madagascar, Beach, 35, and McCollum, 33, returned in 2008 to found Madecasse, a chocolate company in which every step of the process - not only cultivation but also packaging and distribution - is done locally.

8/9) Geoff Bartakovics and Nick Fauchald, E-Entrepreneurs: Bartakovics (33) and Fauchald (31) founded Tasting Table as a food e-newsletter that scouts trends and discovers up-and-coming artisans, like a new charcuterie maker in Wisconsin.

10) Matt Timms, Contest Impresario: In founding Chili Takedown competitions, Timms, 36, has created a new way for amateur cooks to become part of the food community - through raucous events that are part Pillsbury Bake-Off, part WWE match.

11/12) Michael Kirban and Ira Liran, Coconut Water Popularizers: In the span of a few years, childhood friends Kirban, 35, and Liran, 32, took coconut water - a super-nutritious, low-calorie drink - and turned it into Vita Coco, the biggest company in the category, with celebrity investors like Madonna.

13/14) Emily Olson and Rob LaFave, Online Food Scouts: When they launched Foodzie, a website connecting thousands of food artisans to customers, Olson, 26 and LaFave, 27, created the world's biggest online food market.

15/16) Brendan Newnam and Rico Gagliano, American Public Media (APM) Hosts: At the Dinner Party Download, Newnam (36) and co-host Gagliano (40), cover food trends and culture.

17) Matthew Cain, Eco-Wine Importer: Each carton of Yellow+Blue wine Cain (40) sells has a carbon footprint half that of the average bottle.

18) Anya Fernald, Slow-Food Activist: Fernald, 35, worked with Alice Waters to organize the first Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco three years ago - a seminal moment. Now the founder of the consulting firm Live Culture Company, she helps small-scale artisans expand their businesses while following principles of sustainability.

19) Kenji Lopez-Alt, Food-Science Whiz: An MIT grad and chef, Lopez-Alt, 31, has earned a fanatical following for his blog, the Food Lab, by demystifying cooking techniques like sous vide (his version involves a plastic cooler) and cheerfully creating a homemade In-N-Out burger.

20) Frances Ro, Housewares Hunter: Since taking over her father's Los Angeles-based importing business and department store a few years ago, the 34-year-old Ro has brought incredible new kitchenwares to the US - everything from stellar pressure cookers and pots made by 165-year-old German company Fissler to ingenious soap-conserving sponges from the Japanese company Goodbye Detergent!

21) Charles Bieler, Wine Collaborator: A visionary marketer and compulsive collaborator, Bieler, 35, takes what could be pure gimmick - selling good Cabernet in a screw-top jug, for example - and turns it into a bona fide opportunity for worthy wines.

22/23) Chris Parachini and Brandon Hoy, Locavore Leaders: Parachini, 38, and Hoy, 33, founded Roberta's not only as a Brooklyn restaurant but also as an incubator for other locavore projects. These include the biggest rooftop farm in NYC, plus beehives, greenhouses, a radio station and an artisanal bakery.

24) Tat Harper, Beauty Maven: An up-and-coming skincare entrepreneur, the Colombian-born Harper, 35, grows some of her organic ingredients - calendula, lavender, narcissus flower - on her Vermont farm.

25) Annemarie Ahearn, Farm-to-Table Teacher: The 29-year-old Ahearn created her cooking school, Salt Water Farm, on the Maine coast as a playland for DIY cooks.

26) Minh Tsai, Soy Artisan: Compared to processed tofu, the artisanal kind has an entirely different flavor - and Tsai, 39, is on a mission to prove it. He began selling his fresh-that-day tofu at the Palo Alto, CA farmer's market in 2004.

27) Amanda Hesser, Cookbook Author: Hesser, 39, didn't just update the 1961 edition of The Essential New York Times Cookbook; she excavated more than a century's worth of recipes from the newspaper's archives for an account of the evolution of American cooking.

28) Matt Jennings, Chef and Cheesemaker: Lots of chefs make their own ricotta or chevre, but few have gone as far or as deep as Jennings, 34. Not only does he run an excellent cheese shop (Farmstead) and a bistro (La Laiterie) in Providence, Rhode Island, he also regularly collaborates with small farms on experimental cheeses.

29) Alison Pincus, Online Housewares Seller: Launched by Pincus, 36, and co-founder Susan Feldman just last year, the website One Kings Lane has registered nearly a million members, who come for 72-hour "tag sales" on furniture, home accessories and kitchen-and-bath items by designers and labels both established and up-and-coming.

30) Tracey Brandt, Urban Winemaker: By experimenting with novel techniques - like making wine using grapes growing wild on abandoned vineyard land - Brandt, 40, and her husband Jared, are helping to change the way wine is made.

31) Rob Cooper, Spirits Inventor: A third-generation distiller, the 33-year-old Cooper is one of the most influential spirits makers in the country. His deliciously subtle St. Germain elderflower liqueur - made with petals picked by hand each spring in the French Alps - permanently altered cocktail menus at bars everywhere.

32) Christian Ettinger, Organic Brewmaster: Portland, Oregon, has long been known for both craft beer and eco-consciousness. Now Ettinger, 37, is combining them: The former brewmaster of Laurelwood, he launched his own organic craft brewery, Hopworks, in 2008.

33) Peter Karpinski, Hotel Restaurateur: A protege of Philadelphia empire-builder Stephen Starr, Karpinski, 35, of Sage Restaurant Group, is bringing indie style to big hotel restaurants in cities often overlooked by other boutique hoteliers.

34/35/36) Nicolas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru and Jonathan Neman, Eco-Salad-Chain Founders: Three years ago, when these Georgetown University classmates launched the quick-service salad shop Sweetgreen their senior year, they built in a serious eco-ethos that's only gotten stronger. Backed by investors with environmental chops, including Stonyfield Farm founder Gary Hirshberg, the team built five DC-area locations in three years, with a Philadelphia expansion in the works.

37) Zac Triemert, Craft Distiller: Triemert, 36, helped rewrite Nebraska's Prohibition-era liquor laws to open the doors to craft brewers and distillers alike. He makes his vodka, Joss, with organic Nebraska wheat and filtered water from the Ogallala aquifer.

38/39) Anthony Myint and Danny Bowien, Charitable Chefs: Myint, 32, founded Mission Street Food in San Francisco to raise money for good causes: In its first year, the pop-up restaurant donated more than $20,000 to a local food bank.

40) Jeremy Tooker, Coffee Craftsman: Coffee's rising star, Tooker, 31, launched Four Barrel in San Francisco in 2008 and quickly started supplying prestigious restaurants like New York City's Maialino.

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