America's 50 Most Powerful People in Food for 2011

These men and women really cook.


Power is the ability to make things happen. It's authority, strength, muscle, swack, juice.

In the food world, the people with power are the ones who affect what and how and where and why we eat — or who can, if they want to. They're the agribusiness moguls who decide what gets grown and how it gets harvested and sold; the representatives of major food processing, distribution concerns, and retail food outlets who create new products and service the demand for edibles old and new. They're the scolds and nannies — and admirable consumer advocates — who tell us what we should and shouldn't eat, sometimes upending whole industries in the process.

Some wield a traditional form of power, like the key figures in the governmental agencies concerned with the economics and the safety of our food supply; some have more ephemeral might, like the media stars and public figures who sway our food opinions and stimulate our appetites today but might well be gone tomorrow. The food-powerful include the chefs and restaurateurs who ignite food trends, introduce us to unfamiliar products and culinary notions, and establish the standards we come to expect for the preparation and the serving of food; they also include the journalists who report on all of the above…

We've thrown in a few men and women whose connection with food is less than obvious, too (and explained why they're there). And #1 on our list doesn't fit neatly into any one slot — though it's somebody the reader is apt to know very well.

Any catalogue of powerful people — and certainly any ranking of them in order of clout — is bound to be highly subjective, of course. That doesn't mean that it has to be arbitrary. The Daily Meal editors collaborated to assemble our initial list, then added and subtracted, fine-tuned and developed. We did extensive research and had endless discussions and occasionally strenuous debates. One thing that was clear from the beginning was that the most influential figures in the field weren't always the best-known, and that CEOs could wield more might than celebrities.

We certainly included some high-profile individuals — TV personality Rachael Ray (#14), chef Mario Batali (#31), and The New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton (#9), to name three — but they are interleafed with people you may never have heard of, like Gregory R. Page, CEO of Cargill, Inc. (#18), whose company sells about a quarter of all the grain and meat eaten in the U.S. annually; or Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods (#29), named most powerful woman in American business by Forbes.

One unelected but highly visible player in American politics ranks highly on our list, but not for the same reasons that earned a slot for Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (#11), who is charged with carrying out sweeping new federal food safety laws. And then there are names you might not expect to see on a list of food folk at all: What's New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (#27) doing there? And what about Mr. Apple, Steve Jobs (#5)? All will be revealed.

Our ultimate criterion was simply this: Can this person, whether by dint of corporate position, media access, moral authority, or sheer personality, substantially change, improve, and/or degrade the quality and variety of the American diet or the way we think about it? 

We're confident that we've come up with a pretty good list. What do you think? Did we leave off anybody obvious, or give undue prominence to some food folk or not enough to others? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

50. Adam Rapoport

49. Jeffrey Jordan

48. Ingrid Newkirk

47. Martha Stewart

46. Jonathan Gold

45. Dan Bane

44. Danny Meyer

43. Josh Viertel

42. Barry Estabrook

41. Nobu Matsuhisa

40. Dan Barber

39. Ruth Reichl

38. Michael Pollan

37. Mario Batali

36. David Dillon

35. Susan Ungaro

34. Lockhart Steele

33. Catherine M. Cassidy

32. Daniel Boulud

31. Rich Melman

30. Tom Colicchio

29. Irene Rosenfeld

28. Michael Bloomberg

27. Lisa Sharples

26. Indra Nooyi

25. Tim & Nina Zagat

24. José Andrés

23. Arturo Rodriguez

22. Maria Rodale

21. Oprah Winfrey

20. Grant Achatz

19. Thomas Keller

18. Gregory R. Page

17. Donnie Smith

 16. Guy Fieri

15. James Sinegal

14. Rachael Ray

13. Wolfgang Puck

12. John Mackey

11. Michael R. Taylor

10. Jim Skinner

9. Sam Sifton

8. Mike Duke

7. Brooke Johnson

6. Alice Waters

5. Steve Jobs

4. Michelle Obama

3. Hugh Grant

2. Thomas J. Vilsack

1. You

Click here for America's Most Powerful People in Food Slideshow.

* Editors' Note (1/25/11): When we revealed our ranked listing of "America's 50 Most Powerful People in Food," we invited readers to give us their own nominations. Click here for Readers' Choice: More Nominees for America's Most Powerful People in Food.


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228 Comments

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Ingrid Newkirk??? How can this lunatic, terrorist make anyone's list of anything but world's craziest??

I would encourage people to watch the Biography Channel profile of Ms. Newkirk.

There is a segment where this nutcase see's a bird on the side of the road and she "must turn around" to find out if it is alive. She parks her car on a busy road endangering other drivers, then picks up the bird only to discover it's dead.

In an effort to "preserve the bird's 'dignity" she tosses the dead carcass under a bush? Now anyone that knows ANYTHING about animals and nature itself would realize that that dead animal and all its "dignity" is FOOD for some other animal, whether a buzzard, a coyote, or a domestic dog.

By leaving this dead animal on the side of a very busy 4 or 6-lane divided road, she has not preserved the bird's dignity and has placed not only other people and motorists at some risk, she has absolutely put other animals at risk that will smell the carrion and come looking for a meal.

She is patently hypocritical, and as the biography reveals, clearly disturbed, anti-social, mean-spirited, attention-hungry and far worse, completely out of touch with the 'dignity" and violent, bloody deaths that have occurred in nature every single day for millennia.

Further, her sponsorship of destruction of private property including the deaths of several innocent people has placed her on terrorist watch lists.

PETA and Ingrid Newkirk are shameful, misguided zealots, that in fact, have no idea what they are talking about. Why would anyone listen to this nutcase as she sits in her spartan little apartment eating pre-packaged microwave vegetables?

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how about the farm workers who do so much to bring food to the market place. the dick from monsanto is insulting and a terrible effort on your part to further legitimize the deeds done by corporate amerika to market unhealthy food. shame.

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The editor seems to be supporting a political agenda as opposed to anything associated with the topic. Putting names like Obama, Waters, Bloomberg, etc... on a list like this does NOT establish them with credibility on the issue. Rather, it establishes the editor as a political hack.

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I'm curious what your agenda is all about. Waters, especially, she has been a pioneer in food and agriculture for many years. She established the Edible Schoolyard, teaching urban kids everything about growing food and understanding our relationship with the rest of the planet; What don't you understand about her importance?

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Michael Pollan has done more for food awareness than any of these "celebrities". Add Carlos Petrini of the Slow Food movement and Anthony Bourdain. If it's raw power, the fat cats at ADM, Monsanto, and Goldman-Sachs have done more than any tyrant to destroy sustainable, nutritious food sources. Since corporations are now "people", this would justify putting the company (and their CEOs) on the list.

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GUY FIERI????important is not defined the same as popular...what socially or culinary moving items has mr.fieri (not his real name) given to the world? Someone already started calling thing "killer" and "bad boys" back in the 80's, and has since stopped. the list is flawed.

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i agree. where is bobby flay, anthony bourdain, rick moonen, or andrew zimmern?? emeril anybody?some of these i get but why all the celebrities like oprah and the first lady. next time make a better list of people we all know and actually care about. i dont really care what oprah or first lady have to say about food

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Mrs. Obama is more worthy of being on this list than Rachel Ray! Primarily for her efforts to stem childhood obesity and improve the quality of food we serve to our kids. The First Lady is leading the nation's effort to improve the quality of school lunches. She has united chefs in DC, who have adopted city schools and are helping to remake the schools' lunch programs. Obama is using her status to make a change, a change this country needs. She also uses the White House garden to teach kids where veggies come from and how to cook with them. That is why the First Lady is on the list (Jamie Oliver should be too, unless I missed it); and not just because she's on the cover of People. And no, I don't work for the Administration!

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Bullshit!

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I dont agree. Where is Charlie Trotter?!!!!!

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Really what is up the only thing that matters is the food and how good it is ...really i know plenty of people who will cook circles around 75% of those you listed get a grip......

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You really do not know what you are talking about! Have your palate check and review your editorial!....totally unacceptable!

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this is so beyond stupid.

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It's a stupid joke.
Michelle Obama cook rice ,beans and fried pork all is life now is
the 4th most powerfull person,(get lost).
Did you get pay to write this article?

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Is this list some kind of Joke? I just do not understand the reason the list of celebrities has much to do with food. THis list is a Joke

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are you serious? This is a joke. please don't put up this kind of shallow --- if you have $$$ you're in crap.

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Adam Richman???

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Where is Bobby Flay or Emeril Lagasse?

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not even close.....

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Anthony Bourdain? He has a huge following and should have been in the top 20 at least. Bourdain practically TELLS me where I should go eat.

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This slide show was annoying. Come on, how is it that Bobby Flay is not on this list? This like leaving Michael Jordan off a list of influential basketball players.

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If you include Michelle Obama and Steve Jobs, you must include dumpster diver guy who has more to say about food than these two banana slugs.

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Your list is The absolute worst ! These are the real movers and shakers, Anthony Bourdain, Emeril, Bobby Flay, Mark Bittman,
Ferran Adrià, Julia Child, Joel Robuchon, Jamie Oliver, Alton Brown, Hubert Keller, Rick Bayless, Rick Moonen, Gordon Ramsay, Wylie Dufresne, Marcus Samuelsson, Eric Ripert, Jose' Andres, Morimoto, Mario Batali, Me!, Now thats a top 20

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ty you typed out everyone so i don't have to!

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You're a dipshit for even typing a reply Mr. Anonymous.

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I believe the report said POWERFUL, not celebrity! I love Food Network and Top Chef too. But, come on! You're complaining that your favs were not listed? No wonder the responses were anonymous!

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This list can not be taken seriously....Michelle Obambo...are you kidding???

Where is Emeril??

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Guy Fieri...16th most powerful people in the food world? I'm not sure if he is even that high in the "TV Food" world. He seems like a great guy, but come on...might as well ad Ronald McDonald to the list.

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Did Monsanto pay for that list? What about Joel Salatin?

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I think you should have included an actual farmer on your list.

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