Similar to our Chef Alliance list, we have compiled the Innovator 50, a list featuring the most inspiring individuals in the industry.
This list isn't only designated for chefs or restaurateurs either. There are five categories within this special selection of individuals, each celebrating innovators in a different area of expertise.
Even though male chefs earn an average of 28.1% more than female chefs according to Glassdoor, the food industry is no longer a man’s world.
According to the National Restaurant Association, more than half of the restaurants in the U.S. are owned or are co-owned by women. 45% of restaurant managers are women, compared to the 38% of female managers found in other industries.
These numbers prove that women are leading the way. While Carin Stutz of Red Robin and Kat Cole of Cinnabon are reigning in the corporate restaurant world, our Innovators list features some of the other women changing the way America is eating.
Let’s take a closer look at the leading ladies who have helped to create some of the most successful food businesses in the country.
Leslie Ziegler & Megan Miller, Future Food Artisan
As today’s eater becomes more educated about the impact that consuming large amounts of meat proteins has on their bodies and their environment, alternative proteins are on the rise.
One of the most controversial, yet intriguing alternative proteins is cricket flour.
Back in 2012, Leslie Ziegler and Megan Miller experimented with cooking both crickets and mealworms. Eventually, they went on to develop a more sustainable protein powder made of crickets, which influenced them to start the company Bitty Foods.
One cup of Bitty Foods cricket flour has 28 grams of protein and is available at select retail stores. The brand also sells Chiridos, which are air-puffed chips made from crickets, lentils, and spices.
But both Ziegler and Miller know that they have to change customers’ weary perception, especially in the U.S., about consuming crickets.
"People just need to try it," said Ziegler to Fast Company in 2016. "Any hesitation is usually erased after a taste."
Ellen Chen, Brand Artisan
Chen is the co-founder and culinary mastermind of the elevated sandwich concept, Mendocino Farms.
With 15+ locations, the sandwich concept is gaining traction in the California market due to its high-quality food product and passionate, devoted team.
“Many of the big sandwich chains use far lower quality ingredients and stick with the classics, allowing for little competitive differentiation,” said Chen. “We try to navigate the middle ground by taking that chef-driven mentality and using the filter of approachability in an attempt to awaken the inner foodie in all of us!”
Evidently, Chen and her fellow co-founder Mario Del Pero have created a brand that resonates with consumers, since there are six more stores expected to open this year.
Julia Collins, Future Food Artisan
Collins is the co-founder of the virtual pizza concept Zume Pizza. This Silicon Valley-based company is store-less and has a team of robots that assist in making the pizzas. Specifically, the robot named Doughbot presses the dough in a pizza circle in nine seconds.
“We wanted to identify places where humans were overtaxed physically, bored, or whether the job they were doing was not safe, like sticking their hand into a 600 degree oven for six hours a day. That’s why we focused next on this practice of opening the dough,” said Collins.
Collins is one of the masterminds behind the concept that combines on-demand and automation technology. Zume Pizza also has delivery vehicles equipped with pizza ovens, so pizzas are ready for fast delivery.
Zume even uses predictive technology to get an idea of how many pizzas should be locked and loaded to deliver in 20 minutes for less in the Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Stanford areas.
Collins’ pizza concept could change the future of pizza delivery forever.
Check out the other innovators on our list here.