What makes these 25 the premier epicurean entrepreneurs of the past quarter century? While all have founded financially successful empires (whether boutique or giant), more importantly these men and women have made a significant impact on the country’s food culture. Chefs and restaurateurs only qualified if they also established a clear—and, yes, lucrative—brand. For a retailer to make the grade, they must have maintained their integrity and hewed closely to their original vision. But haute cuisine maestro or fast-food purveyor, all 25 share one thing in common: Their businesses have shifted the axis of American taste.
9. Annie Chun: Annie Chun’s
What is it with Annies and food entrepreneurship? Chun, like Withey, leveraged small beginnings—selling bottles of homemade sauces at the Marin County Farmers’ Market—into an all-natural packaged Asian food company that’s been growing exponentially since its 2005 alliance with the South Korea–based CJ Corp. She previously worked all jobs at her family’s Korean restaurant: “I didn’t know it at the time, but I was getting the experience I would need later on.” So, kids, bussing tables can be fruitful.