1. Lauren Toyota
Three years ago, Lauren Toyota traded in her VJ gig at MuchMusic and took to YouTube with a simple proposition: Vegan food doesn’t have to be precious or pious—and it can taste really, really great. Since then, nearly 400,000 viewers have subscribed to her channel, Hot for Food, where she whips up seriously delicious vegan recipes. Read more about her accessible approach to vegan food (plus, get a great vegan cheesecake recipe here).
2. Joshna Maharaj
Six months after leaving university, Joshna Maharaj was 12,000 kilometres from her Toronto home, way up in the Indian mountains, helping an ashram prepare its New Year’s Eve feast. “We fed a thousand people,” Maharaj remembers. “No one got turned away.” She returned from her year at the ashram in 2001, newly committed to using her cooking skills to further social change. Read more about how she’s reshaping the way Canadian institutions approach food.
3. Tara O’Brady
Seven Spoons author Tara O’Brady wows her nearly 79,000 Instagram followers daily with photos of family meals and recipes in development. Read more about how she and other Instagram stars are changing the way we think about food, one picture at a time.
4. Christa Bruneau-Guenther
“There’s something special about being able to go to a restaurant and seeing your people serve you and experiencing your culture there,” says the founder of Feast Café Bistro, a community-minded, full-service, budget-friendly restaurant featuring indigenous dishes in downtown Winnipeg. Read more about Bruneau-Guenther’s approach to Indigeneous cuisine.
5. These Rockstar Chefs
Chefs Renée Lavalée, Nicole Gomes, Nuit Regular and Connie DeSousa know food. Read more about their inspirations, pet peeves and the kitchen tools they can’t live without.
6. Jen Agg
No one in Canada’s restaurant industry has a lower tolerance for bulls**t than Jen Agg. The acclaimed restaurateur behind The Black Hoof and Grey Gardens in Toronto, as well a trio of cocktail bars, including Montreal’s Haitian-inspired Agrikol, has been on a mission to end restaurant bro culture and make professional kitchens safer and more equitable.
7. Cynthia Leung
When you’re working full days at an architecture firm and your husband is pulling late nights as a pastry chef, starting a craft chocolate company in your barely existent spare time seems like a bananas proposition. Read more about how Cynthia Leung turned her dream into an award-winning reality.
8. Eden Hagos
Hagos channeled her serious love of food into her website, Black Foodie, which spotlights African, Caribbean and American Southern cuisine. She’s since expanded into events and festivals, and has much more in store.
9. Deena DelZotto and Rachel Kimel
After driving one too many times past the same stubbornly vacant east-end Toronto lot, Deena DelZotto turned to Rachel Kimel and declared, “We should grow food there.” Developers, they realized, were sitting on these downtown lots, and until the land was claimed for use, it was prime real estate for temporary urban farms. The Bowery Project was born.
10. Kate Allen, Kelly Morrison and Kristen Lien
The three partners behind Calgary’s Frank Architecture have made their mark all over the city’s culinary scene. Read more about their tenets of great restaurant design.
11. Kathlyne Ross
Ross likes to joke that she eats for a living, but it’s actually true. As vice-president of product development and innovation for Loblaw’s, Ross tastes every new creation from the President’s Choice test kitchen, which adds up to hundreds of products each year. Read more about how she gets products into your pantry.
12. Isha Datar and Erin Kim
How do two Canadians end up in Manhattan building a new industry of lab-grown animal products? Serendipity — and an unlikely curiosity about meat science. Read more about the ground-breaking work Datar and Kim are doing that could change agriculture as we know it.
13. Debra Lawson
Two decades ago, Debra Lawson began volunteering for the Toronto food rescue organization Second Harvest, which saved one million pounds of food from the garbage heap a year. Today, she serves as its executive director, and Second Harvest salvages more than 10 million pounds of food annually. Read more about her goal to solve food insecurity.
14. Jane Rabinowicz
The 20th century wasn’t kind to crop diversity — something Jane Rabinowicz knows all too well. As executive director at USC Canada, she’s charged with safeguarding seeds and breeding resilient new varieties. Read more about her goal of saving seeds from going the way of the dinosaurs.
15. Stefany Nieto
Stefany Nieto and fellow Ryerson University business student Ben Canning cofounded Growing North, a non-profit that custom-builds greenhouses for unforgiving northern conditions. Last spring, they won a $250,000 Google Impact prize for their efforts. Read more about how the greenhouses work.