This year’s list highlights up-and-coming superstars from the worlds of restaurants, farming, packaged food, alcohol and recipe development.
By Chloe Sorvino and Kristin Stoller, with Anthony Tellez
The only access to Nigerian food that Oluwakolapo Smith had in North Texas was a store 40 minutes away—a problem he says was felt by fellow Nigerian immigrants in the U.S.
So in 2018, he dropped out of college to found direct-to-consumer Nigerian food and beverage box AllIDoIsCook, along with business partner Bethany Oyefeso. Today, they’ve shipped over 10,000 boxes of their meat pies and stews to more than 3,000 customers and expect to generate nearly $1 million in revenue this year.
Smith and Oyefeso are among this year’s stand-outs on the 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 Food & Drink list, which highlights up-and-coming superstars from the worlds of restaurants, farming, packaged food, alcohol and recipe development who have persevered despite the odds. Their game-changing work should be watched.
To compile the 12th annual list, judges and Forbes reporters convened in-person to taste samples and discuss the candidates. Candidates were evaluated by a panel of judges featuring Kardea Brown, host of the Food Network’s Delicious Miss Brown Girl; Under 30 list alumna Vanessa Pham, cofounder and CEO of Omsom; Randall Lane, Forbes’ chief content officer; and Lee Brian Schrager, founder, South Beach Wine & Food Festival. To be considered for this year’s list, all candidates had to be under the age of 30 as of December 31, 2022, and never before named to a 30 Under 30 list.
Despite the hardships the last year brought to the industry, four restaurants are featured on our 2023 list. That restaurateur roster includes two chefs nominated for the 2022 James Beard Emerging Chef award: finalist Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based Bonnie’s chef Calvin Eng, 28; and semifinalist Shenarri Freeman, 29, the executive chef of Cadence, a plant-based, Southern soul restaurant in New York’s East Village. In addition, there’s 29-year-old Téa Ivanovic, the cofounder of Washington, D.C.-based Immigrant Food, and Jun Cho, the 28-year-old behind seafood delivery-focused chain The Boil Daddy.
Cho started the fast-growing restaurant with just $30,000 of his own money in June 2020. The South Korean immigrant started with one restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles, but quickly decided to franchise the business, allowing franchisees to operate a brick and mortar restaurant with a full dining experience or operate in a ghost kitchen to minimize labor cost. Today, there are nine Boil Daddy restaurants throughout California and Texas that Cho projects will bring in $15 million in revenue in 2022, up from $5 million last year. Cho plans to expand to the East Coast, opening 20 locations by year end and 100 by 2023.
Many startups on this year’s list are harnessing emerging technology to sustainably feed the world’s growing population. Gabriel Nipote, 27, Henry Michaelson, 26, and Spencer Price, 26 founded startup Halla to help food retailers predict what a shopper will want before they know they want it. With nearly $10 million in funding from Endless Frontier Labs, Food Retail Ventures and others, Halla has been deployed at over 3,000 ecommerce storefronts, which span multiple top 10 grocers in the U.S. and Canada.
Creators on the 2023 list include Samah Dada, the author of cookbook Love To Cook It, and Nicholas Norena, the Instagram sensation with the account @thesucculentbite. These are just a few of the young individuals that are creating companies and movements that will define 2023 and beyond.
This year’s list was edited by Kristin Stoller and Chloe Sorvino, with Anthony Tellez. For a link to our complete 2023 Under 30 Food & Drink list, click here, and for full 30 Under 30 coverage, click here.