Culinary trends can be as fickle and fast-changing as any other fad — just ask any owner of a now-shuttered frozen yogurt store, or the former employees of once-popular cupcake shops.
But for the members of the 30 Under 30 class of 2018 in food and drink, shaping America’s meals is less about zeroing in on what’s next and more about balancing what consumers say they want with strong business fundamentals and products that will withstand the test of whims.
Take, for instance, Peter Yang, the 29-year-old cofounder of the fast-growing Pokéworks chain of poke shops. His poke — which is pronounced “poh-kay” and is essentially a salad of raw fish — got a boost from a viral video in 2015. The two-hour lines out of Pokéworks’ Manhattan doors have since subsided, but Pokéworks has been able to keep expanding: the chain has 13 locations across America and Canada, and is targeting $15 million in revenue this year.
“Healthy [and] quick is not just a trend. It’s more of a lifestyle, and you see that in every concept that’s successful,” Yang says. “But also, the flavors within poke are very similar to other foods that have been accepted and has been part of the American diet. So it’s just a different vehicle of enjoying similar foods in the way that people like to: fast and healthy.”
Poke (and its preparers) also benefits from a real estate edge.
“Everything is prepped fresh. And there’s no grease. There’s no fire,” Yang explains. “So we’re able to really get into spaces that a lot of, let’s say, full-kitchen concepts wouldn’t be able to.”
Also responsible for nurturing and growing a phenomenon is 28-year-old Marguerite Mariscal, the vice president of brand and design at the internationally-known Momofuku restaurant group. Mariscal works across all projects and departments at Momofuku — but most importantly, Momofuku insiders say, she is founder Dave Chang’s right-hand woman and frequent translator. “As Momofuku grows in numbers and concepts, the guest experience needs to work hand in hand with the food ― all without losing sight of our form-follows-function dogma,” Mariscal says. “I act as a conduit between Dave’s brain and our internal teams to strike that balance. I speak fluent Dave.”
Congratulations to all mentioned!