Time Magazine 100 includes 4 Foodies

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Time Magazine’s annual roundup of the world’s most influential leaders, thinkers, heroes, and artists hits newsstands this week, and this year the list includes four individuals from the food sector whose ideas and talent transform the world we live in.

Chef David Chang is a game-changer. He re-imagined and re-invigorated casual dining with Momofuku and his subsequent New York restaurants. Chang cooks at the razor’s edge: fastidious preparations found in classic European kitchens combine with Asian flavors, challenging ingredients, and more than a whiff of the street. It’s blasphemy and genius balanced on Chang’s unerring palate. Service is on simple, ungarnished plates in rooms of pared-down aesthetics where wealth and celebrity won’t get you an easier reservation.

Food activists celebrated when Kathleen Merrigan became Secretary Tom Vilsack’s deputy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Merrigan established herself as one of the earliest government advocates for sustainable foods when she authored a 1990 bill that set standards and regulations for the nascent organic farming movement. She helped to launch the industry and shift the agenda from the farmer to the consumer. And now she has the ear of the Agriculture secretary.

Chen Shu-Chu is one of the more striking and unlikely honorees. Chen has been selling vegetables out of a small stall in Taiwan’s central market since 1963 when at the age of 12 she dropped out of school to support her family. Out of her modest earnings, she has managed to donate more than $300,000 to various philanthropic causes. Over the years her donations have included $32,000 to a children’s fund, another $32,000 to a local orphanage, and $144,000 to help build a library at the school she once attended. Lacking the wealth, fame, or political weight of most of the others on the Time list, Chen is transforming the world through the softer power of example.

Author, journalist, activist, and teacher, Michael Pollan started a national dialogue when he asked the question What should we have for dinner? After that opening sentence, his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma proceeded to take us on a journey up and down the food chain that has forever changed how we answer that question. With In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Pollan opened our eyes to a national eating disorder fueled by high fructose corn syrup. Then Food Rules distilled and condensed his work down to some bite-sized words to live by: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Four out of 100 on a list that also includes two U.S. Presidents, media giants, Nobel prize winners, world leaders, and ground-breaking artists. Oh, and Ashton Kutcher. Not too shabby.

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