The future of food is vibrant and delicious

By Kat Kinsman
Updated February 13, 2018
EC: Why Chef Barbara Lynch and Chobani Founder Hamdi Ulukaya Made the 2017 Time 100 List
Credit: Photo by Michael Prince

In 2017, there are "influencers" (a.k.a. Instagrammers with a few hundred thousand fans liking their every #wanderlust and unicorn frappuccino shot) and then there's the Time 100 list. For 14 years, the publication has tapped honorees from lists past and asked them to weigh in on the artists, politicians, entrepreneurs, innovators, activists, and thinkers who are shaping the world right now. The 100 Most Influential People in the World 2017 list includes two food leaders, chef and author Barbara Lynch and Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya, because it simply must. What we eat touches every aspect of our lives—mental and physical health, money, politics, entertainment, identity, and emotions—and its importance is undeniable. Get to know the people who are driving change and ensuring a vibrant future for food and the people who make and eat it.

Life has been a wild ride for Barbara Lynch. The newly minted memoirist grew up in a South Boston housing project as one of seven kids of a hardworking single mother, weathered a world of poverty and violence, and made herself into one of America's greatest forces in a field that's notoriously unwelcoming (sometimes downright hostile) to women. But with seven restaurants and two James Beard Awards under her apron, Lynch isn't content to luxuriate in her success. As Top Chef host and author Padma Lakshmi writes in her Time 100 profile, "She creates opportunities for herself, even when it seems like they do not exist."

She also makes it her business to extend her counsel and good fortune to others. Lynch mentors and nurtures other female chefs and anchors three of her restaurants in South Boston for the purpose of revitalizing the neighborhood. She's not going anywhere, and she's not taking anything for granted, telling Extra Crispy, "My greatest hope for the restaurants is for another 20 years of success."

Have you spooned up some thick, creamy Greek yogurt in the past couple of years? Seen its footprint creep along the dairy aisle as it edges out plain old cow's milk (who drinks that anymore?) and nudges up against the various nut-based beverages? You have Hamdi Ulukaya to thank in part for that.

The Chobani founder, profiled for the list by Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth, saw an opportunity for both food revolution and economic revival when he set up yougurt-making operations in south-central Idaho and upstate New York. These areas of the country were starving for jobs, and Roth provided them not just for people born in America, but for hundreds of refugees. The Turkish-born Kurd has garnered death threats, poor press, and attacks from the alt right for his hiring practices, which they claim steals jobs from veterans and other American workers, but he stands strong. The company provides provides transportation from nearby refugee centers, translators, an equity stake in the company, and a salary above the minimum wage for all of its workers because as Ulukaya says, it's just the right thing to do.