Top 10 Social Chefs Breakdown

By Adria Valdes Greenhauff, Editor-at-Large

Food and social media are one of those made-in-heaven combinations, like peaches and cream or peanut butter and jelly. Thanks to the power of popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, chefs are no longer hiding away in the kitchen. Instead, they’re putting a face to some of the restaurants and dishes we love so dearly. They’re connecting with the public and building loyal fan bases as they capture life in and out of the kitchen. What’s more, when done right, social media can be a powerful tool for chefs to share new menu items, create buzz about upcoming projects, and raise awareness for causes they hold near and dear to their hearts. Here are just some of the chefs that are getting it right on social media. 


1. Rick Bayless

Many people might know Rick Bayless from winning the title of Bravo's “Top Chef Masters,” but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this culinary pro’s influence on the industry. Throughout his longstanding career, Bayless, who holds a doctorate in Anthropological Linguistics from the University of Michigan, has changed the way Americans see and eat Mexican food through his cookbooks, popular PBS series, “Mexico: One Plate at a Time,” and his famed Chicago restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo (which earned a Michelin star in 2015). 

When he’s not in the kitchen, Bayless gives The Most Interesting Man in the World some stiff competition, doing everything from acting in theater to practicing yoga to tending to the $30,000 worth of fresh produce he’s cultivated in his at-home garden. With a healthy 59,700 Instagram fans and 931,000 Twitter followers, Bayless’ social media feeds are fresh food heaven, with photo after photo of herbs, leafy greens, and root vegetables being transformed into plated masterpieces. And if you’re lucky, you may also get the occasional photo of this 62-year-old showing off dance moves or his best Astavakrasana pose. Talk about life goals. 


2. David Chang

My favorite: Beef noodle soup at momofuku ccdc. Not quite traditional but deeply comforting and delicious.

A photo posted by Dave Chang (@davidchang) on

Famed chef and founder of Momofuku restaurant group (locations in NYC, Sydney, Toronto and Washington D.C.), David Chang has been dubbed the Korean-American rebel, getting attention for his deliciously creative food and his brash, edgy attitude. First inspired by a busy ramen shop he visited while living and teaching English in Japan, Chang decided to go to cooking school, and by the time he graduated, landed a job as a line cook at the Mercer Kitchen, owned by French restaurateur Jean-Georges. These days, Chang manages his own restaurant empire, where he puts his own spin on Japanese classics like miso paste, replacing the soy with American ingredients like chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and lentils. 

“With Asian food becoming more accessible, we can do that with these sauces,” Chang said in an interview with Forbes. “Make it here in America — make the best version of it, and hopefully create that trend.” 

On social media, you can join Chang’s 589,000 Instagram followers to get a sneak peek on all the culinary magic that happens behind the scenes at Momofuku restaurants, as well as find out what restaurant and dishes around the world make Chang’s foodie heart sing.


3. Marcus Samuelsson

Award-winning chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and food activist, Marcus Samuelsson is as celebrity as chefs come. From regular TV appearances on shows like “Chopped,” “Iron Chef America,” and “Today,” to being honored as guest chef at the White House under the Obama administration, this Ethiopian-born chef, who was raised in Sweden, has been racking up impressive accolades since he became executive chef of Aquavit at just 24 years old, and soon after became the youngest chef to receive a three-star restaurant review from The New York Times. 

Now, the 45-year-old keeps busy running multiple restaurants, including the famed Red Rooster Harlem, which opened in 2010. Samuelsson is involved with UNICEF, working toward ending malnutrition for children across the world. Samuelsson often uses social media to share his efforts of changing the world through food with his 215,000 Instagram fans and 376,000 Twitter followers.


4. Michael Voltaggio

Most of the world was first introduced to Michael Voltaggio when he competed on the sixth season of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and beating out his brother, Bryan Voltaggio. Since then, the now 38-year-old lives in Los Angeles, where he’s running two restaurants: ink., which features a menu of modern New American dishes, and ink. sack, a creative sandwich shop serving up items like a “Tortilla Española” with caramelized onions, piquillo peppers chips, egg, manchego, and mayo. 

Voltaggio was also named “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine in 2013. On Instagram, Voltaggio keeps his 83,000 fans (at time of publication) happy with plenty of mouth-watering food shots — both from his own restaurants, as well as ones he visits — along with a strong collection of selfies (nothing wrong with that)!  He also runs a Facebook page with his brother where fans can stay up-to-date on all the collaborations these two siblings are working on.


5. Dominique Crenn

The art of preserving @ateliercrenn

A photo posted by Dominique Crenn (@dominiquecrenn) on

The first lady on our list of Top 100 Social Chefs, Dominique Crenn is the culinary talent behind the two Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn and Petit Crenn. (Fun fact: Her restaurant, Atelier Crenn, was No. 1 on our latest Top 100 Social Restaurants Report.) 

She’s also been named the “World’s Best Female Chef” by San Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants list and “Best Chef of the Year” by Eater in 2015. Born in France, Crenn first fell in love with the art of cooking from watching her parents, particularly her father, from whom she,“learned to appreciate the subtle nuances and unique flavors of great cuisine," Crenn told Food Network. On social media, she shares her passion of using organic, sustainable local produce and ingredients in her food with vibrant and colorful photos of ingredients used in her dishes. She also uses her platform to advocate for women’s empowerment, most recently participating in Georg Jensen’s #IAmNeverTooMuch campaign.


6. Grant Achatz

Highly-regarded as a thought leader and revolutionary chef, Grant Achatz has certainly made a name for himself in the world of molecular gastronomy. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, this 42-year-old culinary pro has gone from working his way through three-Michelin-star restaurants of Europe to scoring a sous-chef position at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry to eventually starting his own restaurant, Alinea, (regarded as one of the world’s greatest restaurants), which he recently moved from Chicago to Madrid. He’s known for his incredibly inventive dishes (like helium-filled edible balloons), which he often shares on his Instagram feed. On Twitter, meanwhile, you can catch Achatz polling the public on topics like whether or not people with crying babies should be banned from restaurants. Yikes.


7. Chris Cosentino

Like other chefs on our list, Chris Cosentino gained celebrity status from winning “Top Chef Masters,” as well as his stint as a competitor on “The Next Iron Chef” and appearances on “Iron Chef America.” A graduate from the culinary program at Johnson & Wales, Cosentino built his resume at Red Sage in Washington, D.C., and Redwood Park in the San Francisco Bay Area, among other restaurants, before becoming the executive chef at Incanto, where his modern interpretations of rustic Italian fare earned the restaurant its first 3-star review from the San Francisco Chronicle. Cosentino is also a co-creator of Boccalone, an acclaimed artisanal salumeria in San Francisco. Outside of the kitchen, Cosentino has been public about his struggle with depression and anxiety. He isn’t shy about sharing his personal life on social media, either. If you follow Cosentino, it’s not rare for him to share glimpses of the family, friends, and things that inspire him.


8. Daniel Boulud

French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud has quite the impressive portfolio with restaurants in New York, Palm Beach, Miami, Montreal, Toronto, London, Singapore, and Boston. And these aren’t just any restaurants. In fact, Boulud’s NYC flagship DANIEL, which he opened back in 1993, is a Michelin-starred Relais & Châteaux member, paving the way for five additional restaurants throughout Manhattan and a seat among New York City’s most regarded culinary pros. Boulud’s social media accounts are equally as impressive. He’s got over 200,000 followers on Instagram and his feed is star-studded with other big names in the culinary world, like Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali.


9. Marc Forgione

American Cut Bar & Grill opening in Englewood, NJ this Friday! Yes, there will be burgers.

A photo posted by Marc Forgione (@marcforgione) on

After competing on and winning season three of “The Next Iron Chef” in 2010, Marc Forgione became a household name and solidified his place among the culinary industry’s top talent. Today, the 37-year-old owns and operates several restaurants, including Restaurant Michael Forgione in NYC, Lobster Press, Khe-Yo (partner) and American Cut, which recently opened its second location in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. On social media, Forgione lets his 24,000+ Instagram followers in on all the culinary goodness that goes on behind-the-scenes of his professional life, with no shortage of mouthwatering photography that will leave you wishing smartphones had a scratch-and-sniff capability.


10. Roy Choi

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of indulging at Kogi, Los Angeles’ iconic Korean BBQ food truck, then you’re familiar with Roy Choi, the man who not only made gourmet food trucks a thing, but who has also been credited for starting the Korean Mexican taco movement. The 46-year-old Korean native, who grew up in Orange County, has long been challenging traditions both in and out of the kitchen. After making a name for himself at Le Bernadin, Choi and his team set off on the streets of L.A. in 2008 with the first Korean BBQ truck, using Twitter to build a steady following and name for themselves in a then virtually nonexistent food truck scene. 

The result: a street food revolution that spawned restaurants (Chego, A-Frame), a cookbook slash memoir, “L.A. Son;” a hotel, The Line, that Choi designed and filled with his restaurants; a new series called “Street Food,” not to mention a healthy social media following. Choi’s Instagram account has an impressive 77,000+ followers (at time of publication), and his food truck, Kogi, has 148,000 followers on Twitter. 


Region Roundup

Every section of the world has a unique culinary flavor. Although the same can be said about each chef, every culinary master is influenced by the culture in their region.
The top 1000 chefs on Foodable’s Chefs Alliance features an array of chefs from all over the world, but we have decided to select one chef from the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West in of the U.S. — all from our 2016 Top 100 Social Chef ranking — to see how their cooking invokes local flavor.


Midwest: Stephanie Izard at No. 17

In its humble beginnings, Chicago was known as the “Hog Butcher for the World” once upon a time, but now it is of one the hottest culinary cities in the country. This hot spot is leading the molecular-gastronomy movement and is blessed with world renowned restaurants like Alinea, Next, Grace, XOCO, and Avec.
Even if you don’t have a sophisticated palate, the city has something for everyone. With a vibrant yet casual culinary scene, diners can find Asian-fusion cuisine, restaurants of the Mexican variety, long-standing steakhouses, farm-to-table concepts, and, of course, a ton of restaurants serving the traditional Chicago favorites like deep-dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches.
Chef Stephanie Izard was born in Chicago. After venturing to Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona, Izard returned to the windy city in 2000 and apprenticed under famous chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Vong and Sean McClain at Spring.
In 2004, she opened her first restaurant, Scylla, and then competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and won. Izard was also awarded the James Beard Foundation award for the Best Chef Great Lakes in 2013. So it’s safe to say she is a culinary genius.
She is currently the mastermind behind multiple successful restaurants in the city. Izard’s concepts, Girl & the Goat (in partnership with the BOKA Restaurant Group,) Little Goat Diner, and Duck Duck Goat are unlike each other or any of the other concepts in Chicago. Girl & The Goat offers a family-style menu with global influences, Duck Duck Goat is a fine-dining restaurant serving Chinese fare, and The Little Goat Diner serves the ultimate elevated comfort food.


South: Jamie DeRosa at No. 39

Fuck Yeah! Let's Open @izzysmiami

A photo posted by Jamie DeRosa (@jamiederosa) on

Miami’s culinary scene is known for being a melting pot of restaurants inspired from different countries all around the world. Although the city isn’t a New York or San Francisco in terms of culinary, at least not yet, the last few years has seen the city’s food scene on the rise. The New York Post declared that South Beach in particular was part of "a Miami food scene that's really catching up to the rest of America."
The Miami dining scene offers so much more than Latin cuisine. The city has all types of culinary styles, including Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinian, Spanish, West Indian, Jamaican, Caribbean, Asian, New American, and so much more.
But, it’s the group of powerhouse chefs in the area who are revamping the city’s food scene. One of those chefs is undeniably Jamie DeRosa.
DeRosa received his formal training at Johnson & Wales University in Miami, Fla. After graduating, he landed a job as executive chef at Wolfgang Puck, Orlando and helped to expand the operations to Las Vegas, Toronto, and Miami. He ventured to the West Coast for four years, then to the U.K. and China.
Eventually, DeRosa returned to his Miami roots with a partnership with Geoffrey Zakarian’s team at Tudor House, a restaurant located at the Dream South Beach. He then opened Tongue & Cheek in 2013, which was a successful new American bistro that closed a few years later. DeRosa also opened Izzy's Fish & Oyster, a concept serving New England fare in late 2015 and has plans to expand the concept with a few other Florida locations in the future.
“Chef Jamie De Rosa brings the spirit of Cape Cod to SoFi, drawing on childhood memories to create seafood staples including lobster rolls, fried clam bellies and New England crab cakes, plus nostalgic extras like Parker House rolls and whoopie pies and original cocktails,” according to a Zagat review.

Top 100 Social Chefs: South


Northeast: Jamie Bissonnette at No. 57

The Northeast region of the U.S, has several distinguished culinary cities. Boston has managed to climb into the top tier of U.S. food cities. The successful, young demographic, economic growth, and the offering of some of the best universities the country all have been influential to the ascent of its culinary scene.
Boston has so much more to offer than the traditional New England fare. With North End’s Italian restaurants, the artful cuisine found in the Back Bay and other hot food neighborhoods like Union Square and Davis Square has culminated to a diverse, creative, and vibrant food scene. Not to mention, there are several James Beard Award-winning chefs in town.
One of these Beard Award winners is the edgy Jamie Bissonnette, who won the 2014 Best Chef Northeast and was nominated for the same award two years before that. The chef-turned-restaurateur started Coppa, the Italian enoteca in the South End with partner Ken Oringer (who is also on our list at no. 42,) Toro, the Barcelona-style tapa restaurant also in the South End, and Little Donkey, the newest tapas concept that opened in the summer of 2016 in Cambridge’s Central Square.
Although Bissonnette was also named the 2016 Massachusetts Executive Chef of the Year, he spends half of his time in New York and travels all over the world. Oringer and Bissonnette brought Toro to NYC in the fall of 2013 and the concept went international with a location in Bangkok, Thailand this last summer.


West: Thomas McNaughton at No. 69

Fun day making pasta with @williamssonoma @fortessatableware @fairmonthotels

A photo posted by Thomas Mcnaughton (@ctmcnaughton) on

The West Coast arguably has some of the best culinary cities in the world. This is usually where the trends launch and then eventually migrate to the rest of the country.
Earlier this year, the payments company First Data released a report that showed that San Francisco’s restaurant industry was growing faster than New York’s. Specifically, the report showed that the SF’s growth rate was almost double NYC’s due to the higher-ticket meals from Mexican, sushi, vegetarian, and Asian restaurants. The dynamic restaurant market features innovative bakeries, eateries, and farm-to-table restaurants.
With eclectic areas like the city’s Chinatown, Japantown, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and the Fisherman’s Wharf, diners can find whatever type of cuisine they are craving.
One of the city’s most popular restaurants is flour + water, an Italian restaurant with Northern Californian inspirations that repeatedly lands on Foodable’s San Francisco Top 25 Restaurants list. Leading this award-winning concept is Chef Thomas McNaughton.
McNaughton started in the industry as a dishwasher at age 14. In 2001, he began attending the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, and a year later, he moved to the Bay Area where he learned to cook classic French food. After graduating from the institute in 2003, he became the sous chef at Gary Danko and Quince, both highly-acclaimed restaurants in the Bay area. He then traveled throughout Europe to hone his craft, where he developed a passion for Italian cuisine.
With his partners David White and David Steele, the flour + water concept was opened in May 2009. It was an instant success. The restaurant was nominated for the James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant Award in 2010 and then GQ named the concept one of the top 10 restaurants of the year.
McNaughton and partners then opened Central Kitchen in May 2012, a concept serving new Californian cuisine with a focus on local and sustainable ingredients. Shortly after, the restaurant Salumeria was opened. McNaughton has described it as “the larder of flour+water” and it offers pasta by the pound, cheese, and house-cured meats from flour+water.
McNaughton was nominated three years in a row by the James Beard Foundation for the Rising Chef of the Year starting in 2011, but has yet to get a coveted award from the foundation. But at 32-years-old with an already impressive chef career, we expect his culinary future is bright. 

Top 100 Social Chefs: West


Beverage Trends

By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, Drinks Editor

The world of alcoholic beverages continues to shift, guided both implicitly and explicitly by the burgeoning Millennial generation.  Gen Y – which numbers close to 70 million people – is in search of authentic experiences, caring more for the “story” than the cool factor. Be it wine, beer, or spirits, here are the trends we are seeing right now.



During the golden age of the cocktail, brandy and its posh sibling Cognac were frequent players in cocktails like the Sazaerac, the Side Car, and the Crusta. Seeking to reach a new generation of drinkers, spirits companies have been developing reasonably priced bottlings with their own pedigrees.  The major houses all have one – C by Courvoisier, Remy V, Hennessy Black. One of the new kids in town is Cognac Park from the House of Distillerie Tessendier & Fils, a grower Cognac, whose VS and VSOP are in the $30 and $50 range, respectively. D’Useé, from Bacardi, aggressively reached out to bartenders at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, moving beyond its flashy association with Jay-Z; Martell Blue Swift, which is finished in Bourbon casks, has just launched, clearly trying to bridge the gap between the Cognac drinker and the whiskey-loving brown spirits market. Creating a similar link to bourbon is Copper & Kings in Louisville, Kentucky, whose owner Joe Heron is making what he calls a definitive American brandy.



Old timey sodas have been around for a long while with brands like Jones and Boylan’s offering a blast from the past. Likewise, the cocktail craze has added fuel to craft ginger ale/beer and designer tonic waters from companies like Q, Fentimans and Fevertree. This phenomenon shows no signs of abating. In 2014, PepsiCo launched Caleb’s Kola touting an ingredient list that included fair trade sugar and kola nut, following it with their craft line of Stubborn Sodas that feature mixtures like agave vanilla cream and lemon açai. In August of this year, PepsiCo announced plans to place Stubborn in major retail outlets. Last year, their Mountain Dew brand created the retro Dewshine, offering “real sugar” as a major selling point.  This past spring, the company  continued this artisan focus with 1893 Cola and Ginger Cola.
Currently, Sipp Eco Beverage Company produces a line of organic, sparkling, agave-sweetened beverages including ginger blossom (elderflower and tarragon) and mojo berry (blackberry, mint and lime). Sipp is now on shelves in Target, a marketing point that suggests craft soda has reached the masses. Other local brands continue to develop. The watch words will be “real sugar”, “agave”, and “stevia”, as well as a slew of cleverly devised flavor profiles, both esoteric and approachable.



Millennials don’t have a huge amount of money, so they are less interested in the bling of a high price tag than the enjoyment that comes from discovering new flavors and little known places. Wines from smaller producers, unexpected regions, and lesser known grapes will continue to flourish. Interest in biodynamic wines is also growing, as sommeliers fashion organic and biodynamic wine lists. Meanwhile, beers are pushing the boundaries with new flavors and techniques like barrel-aging (Goose Island ages in Cab Sauv barrels; Deschutes has been using rye and Cognac barrels).



Terroir has always mattered in the world of wine, but in recent years, it’s become a catch phrase in the world of spirits as well. With gin, it began when distillers started to push the definition of the juniper spirit, moving away from the London Dry profile into more experimental, botanical territory e.g., Aviation, St. George), now classified as craft or New Western. The newest gins are all about place, creating singular profiles with herbs, flowers, and spices sourced right in the distiller’s backyard.
In New Hampshire, Tamworth Distillery’s Apiary and Flora gins source botanicals like lemon verbena, red clover, and polar buds from the nearby hillsides; Wilder gin from Ventura Spirits is distilled with native California herbs, such as bay and purple sage. Internationally, gins continue this trend with brands like Four Pillars, which captures the aromas and flavors of Down Under with Tasmanian pepperberry and lemon myrtle. 
Other companies are focusing on local grains and other distillate substances. Greenhook Ginsmiths uses local New York wheat as its grain base. In California's San Joaquin Valley, David Souza of Corbin Cash Spirits uses the sweet potatoes grown on the family farm to distill his gin (as well as vodka and liqueur), and the farm’s rye for whiskey. Many of these spirits are only distributed locally in the states in which they are made. Some are gaining wider distribution. Regardless of their reach, they all offer the same experience -- a sense of place in a bottle.



Savory cocktails have been a fixture for some time with everything from  beets to carrots adding depth to drinks. Peppers – not the corns, but the green, red, and spicy varieties – are grabbing the spotlight now. Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur was so successful that the company has released a new green chile liqueur, Ancho Reyes Verde, a brighter iteration using fresh, not smoked poblano peppers. In a quirky application of heat, Revivalist Gins out of Pennsylvania just announced their DragonDance bottling, which infuses jalapenos with other botanicals to make the first jalapeno craft gin. Other pepper variations are showing up in cocktails either muddled, steeped in simple syrups, or rolled onto rims with Tajin or other chile salts.



Like the ocean it calls to mind, tiki culture comes and goes in waves. What began in the 1940s with Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s Victor Bergeron has been reborn with a vengeance in the 21st century cocktail renaissance. With bars like Smuggler’s Cove and Hale Pele on the west coast, Three Dots and a Dash as well as Lost Lake in Chicago, and Latitude 29 in New Orleans, tiki culture is shaking its grass skirts across the country. The enthusiasm is unlikely to abate now that rum guru Martin Cate, who owns Smuggler’s Cove and co-owns Hale Pele, as well is a partner in Lost Lake, has opened False Idol in San Diego. Why tiki? True tiki drinks are a plane ticket to paradise for our tired modern souls. Besides, it’s impossible to be unhappy when you have an umbrella in your cocktail.


Leading Culinary Trends to Up Your Game in the Kitchen

By Mae Velasco, Custom Content Editor

Nathan Myrhvold, former Microsoft chief technology officer and chef who co-authored the award-winning “Modernist Cuisine,” once put it best: “Cooking is an art, but all art requires knowing something about the techniques and materials.”

A chef’s craft can only be as refined as his or her passion and knowledge base. So, chefs, how can you keep up with your art? By taking a leaf out of this (cook)book and keeping your finger on the pulse of the leading culinary techniques and materials we’re seeing today. What new methods are emerging in foodservice? What ingredients are trending across menus? Do consumers prefer chains or independent restaurants? And does the vegan movement have any meat to it?

Foodable Labs, which analyzes more than 167K restaurant and hospitality brands daily, along with over 220MM global restaurant consumers and professionals engaged on social media, uncovered some of these shifts transpiring in culinary culture. 

For example, did you know that the top 1000 chefs have mentioned using more tart and bitter flavors in their dishes in about 1.3 million conversations? And did you know that among the top 1000 chefs, they’ve discussed trends such as heritage-breed and grass-fed proteins 20 percent more this year than they did the year before? Or how about the fact that consumers are preferring independent restaurants over chains, with Foodable Labs revealing that almost 53 percent of social restaurant visits in September this year occurred at an independent restaurant?


Social Restaurant Visits

Data by Foodable Labs

But this was just a taste of the data! Found it appetizing? Then you’ll want a bite outta’ this. Don’t miss out on the conversation. Get some food for thought, and find out what these pioneering chefs and foodservice professionals had to say, by downloading the Top 100 Social Chefs 2016 report. 

Top 100 Social Chefs Ranking

From the East Coast to the West Coast, from the North to the South, whether their specialties lie in European cuisine to Asian cuisine, chefs may come with different titles and different backgrounds, but one thing is for sure: They all have the same heart and passion for their craft and art.

These are the Top 100 Social Chefs for 2016, based on a culmination of a year’s worth of social consumer data centered around the leading chefs. That’s right — this ranking is not handpicked by an editorial team, but determined by Foodable Labs through the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI), which analyzes more than 220MM global restaurant consumers and more than 500K foodservice locations. 

These chefs are scored out of a 300-point system, measuring their food sentiment, service sentiment, and overall engagement. The system is also weighted to account for major network celebrity chefs, giving all artisans an equal playing field across the board. Want to see how your favorite chefs performed on the digital landscape? Download the Top 100 Social Chefs 2016 Report now!


The Next 50 Years Matter: How Chefs on Digital Will Impact Foodservice

By Paul Barron, Foodable CEO/Founder

Today’s chefs are trying to get a leg up on the competition when it comes to mastering the digital landscape. The problem? Many of them are attempting to do so with little or no professional help. The smart ones understand the vehicle of social media and are killing it — for the most part. What we are finding in our Chef’s Alliance platform, which is a guide to the top 1,000 chefs and artisans, is that 74 percent of the chefs are underperforming on guest engagement.  

Just step back a little and soak that in. This is an insane percentage going in the wrong direction. Chefs are some of the most creative people in the culinary landscape, but this lack of performance sucks more than the those of the pre-canned brands we’re seeing today.


The Challenge

It’s always hard to promote yourself, that much is true, but don’t let them become a lame excuse. If you are a chef and have a local PR company, it’s likely that you are getting pitched to a typical press audience. To succeed as a chef, promote yourself nationally, if not globally. There are a few like Jamie Oliver who have crossed the divide and elevated their brand to a whole new level. And what do Rick Bayless, David Chang, Dominique Crenn, Roy Choi, and Curtis Duffy all have in common? They are in our top 10 social chefs for 2016 and they are in the midst of building a brand around themselves driven from social power.


The Recommendation

Move outside your comfort zone or the local market to get national exposure. In addition, if you don't have a professional video, one that showcases your story and craft like one of our Table 42 Vignettes, then you need to get it done. Videos are an engaging way to share your mission, cooking style, vision, or just the way you work with your staff and guests, which makes you stand out as unique. You have to find your angle, whatever it may be. Build on this quickly and bring it to the forefront of your online press kit! (Don't have an online press kit? That is exactly what the Chef’s Alliance is for. Reach out to us and let us help!)


The Next Phase

Video, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Live, and Twitter Video are all key tools that can help every chef. The important element here is to be visual, visual, visual — aesthetics and visual artistry is everything in the food business, ranking second only to taste. 

Think of your kitchens as studios. Get better lighting. Create an Instagram station with a simple camera and tripod setup, or use your iPhone more frequently. Get a gimbal and a GoPro.  All of this means you can become a content creation beast, which is what you need to be to keep up in this industry. Video is the highest engagement aspect of today's restaurant consumer. In fact, according to Foodable Labs, chefs with video incorporated get 45 percent more engagement than those without.

Video is the most captivating storytelling vehicle of our time, and now the technology has finally caught up with us — mobile devices are powerful enough to stream at broadband speeds, cameras and software are replacing the Hollywood sets at lighting speed, social media is resetting the distribution model, and consumers are finally keeping pace, if not outpacing, technology and media for the first time.  

This is the most exciting time that a chef could be living in. It’s a rebirth of our industry. The tools are here, and the knowledge centers are completely broken down and learning is as easy as a Google search.  

International cuisine is accepted more and more in every country, and instead of viewing roles in the foodservice industry as a third-class job, society sees chefs and celebrity chefs as a rock-star job that new job hunters are turning to as a career. We are on a path that is really quite remarkable and it will be the great voices of our time that make the difference and impact on the next 50 years of our industry. 

Imagine having 50 Julia Child’s or 100 Anthony Bourdain's spreading the gospel of cuisine around the world in the next twenty five years. Food education will be at an all-time high and alternate food technology will begin to shift our palates and our way of thinking. Will space become a new farming destination to assist in feeding the world's population?  

As you can see, the world revolves around food and the artisans who become the loudest voices are the ones who will help lead our society to a newfound land in the next half a century. It all starts with the building blocks of the message — and the message will happen on social.


The New Era

There are over 400,000 chefs in the United States alone, so you have some stiff competition. Digital mastery is the only thing that will set you apart.  

I fear the we are in an era that could evolve a slew of average chefs to greater heights, simply because they are are above average on social and digital tactics. The real social chefs need to get their act together, and hopefully this annual list and the Chef’s Alliance will be a catalyst to the industry to protect our path of culinary perfection and maintain an advanced group of chefs, as well as help them hone their skills as social chefs.  

This is an important phase in our industry. It may even be the crossroads that we look back on and see the shift in the landscape. Every industry has faced this era. For music, it was Napster and the evolution of the sharing community. For technology, it was Apple and iPhone that changed the entire direction of devices. For media, it was the likes for Red Bull, GoPro, and Gatorade formatting what brand content really could be. For news and pop culture, it was VICE and their new age style of reporting. 

As you can see. every industry has the frontrunners who shift the landscape. I happen to think this industry will either fall in the camp of the social chefs or the emerging new brands that attack the space with a whole new strategy of digital adoption. Get ready! You thought things have changed in the past 10 years in food? This is only the beginning.