Few could have predicted Anthony Bourdain's ascent from foul-mouthed, drug-addled line cook to... foul-mouthed, (slightly less) drug-addled TV host. But with pop culture's obsession over food, it makes sense that the button-down celebrity chefs of yesteryear just don't cut it anymore. To try to predict tomorrow's crop of food superstars, we've hammered out a list of up-and-comers who fit the Bourdain mold: a combination of culinary chops, multimedia mastery, and magnetic personality, mixed with a healthy dose of doing-their-own-thing. Some are more under the radar than others, and a few have already had a taste of the limelight, but none of these guys have reached the household-name-level of fame seen by Mr. Medium Raw. 2015 might be the year for these seven.
Known for: Cooking in NYC restaurants, a voice like Ghostface Killah, rhymes about granulated onions and spicy coconut curry, traveling the world eating for VICE Why he's the next Bourdain: Action Bronson, aka Bronsolini, aka Arian Arslani, is a Queens native who spent a career in kitchens before breaking his leg and turning his hip-hop hobby into a full-time hustle. What started as the lo-fi YouTube show Action in the Kitchen has grown into a VICE-produced series called F***, that's Delicious, where Bronson travels the globe tasting food with an everyman attitude and deep culinary education. He brags on his major label debut Mr. Wonderful that all he does is eat oysters; a few years from now that might not be much of an exaggeration.
Known for: Momofuku, Lucky Peach, The Mind of a Chef Why he's the next Bourdain: Although he hasn't quite broken into the household name category yet, David Chang's definitely on any kale-carrying foodie's radar. His Momofuku restaurants helped spearhead the ramen trend, his publication Lucky Peach has the market cornered on the design-savvy, quirky food-nerd print media, and he even stepped in front of the camera on season one of PBS's The Mind of a Chef, which happened to be narrated and produced by the Big B himself. One or two more carefully choreographed media moves, and Chang could easily take the spotlight.
Known for: Opening the Taiwanese restaurant BaoHaus, the memoir/subsequent TV show Fresh Off The Boat, appearances on the Cooking Channel and VICE's Munchies Why he's the next Bourdain: Huang's always been torn between two worlds. His strict Asian upbringing contrasted by hip-hop influences informs a large part of his memoir Fresh Off the Boat, and then there's the fact that he's got both a law degree and an open history of dealing drugs. But his parents' experiences in restaurants bred him for the food world, which has seen him in front of the camera on the Cooking Channel and VICE. His memoir was recently picked up as an ABC series, which he was quick to condemn as failing to accurately represent his vision. It's only a matter of time before he finds a large-scale media outlet that lets him be himself.
Known for: Food-focused podcasts with the biggest names in music Why they're the next Bourdain: Already food blogging royalty for starting Midtown Lunch, Brooks' super popular Food Is the New Rock is a podcast that operates on the premise that… uh… food is, like, the new rock music. Zach (and his co-host, KCRW dude Chuck P, and occasional guest co-host, Thrillist LA editor/Black Crystal Wolf Kids frontman Jeff Miller) interview musicians about food, and food-personalities about music. This means weekly, crazy, never-before-heard stories, like when Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh ended up eating sushi for the first time ever on an invite from David Bowie, or the fact that Wylie Dufresne's first job cooking was making grilled cheeses in the lot at Grateful Dead shows. Recently, Zach's been upping the game, with live appearances at Food Network festivals and on TV shows, and by doing a series of live podcasts at SXSW, where David Chang literally would not leave. Literally. It was awkward. And hilarious.
Known for: Winning season eight of Food Network Star, Do or Dine restaurant, guesting on the very first episode of the Cereal podcast Why he's the next Bourdain: Dude basically won a televised contest of people vying to be the next Bourdain, so that right there should be reason enough to make this list. His subsequent pilot never took hold, but fear not, Warner's mug will once again grace the Food Network via a just-launched web series. He continues his new media dominance with a forthcoming cookbook and guest appearances on what we can definitively say is the best Serial spinoff podcast in history. Oh, and he also made us this incredible Five Guys secret menu.
Known for: Band leader and drummer of The Roots, author, restaurateur, food salon organizer Why he's the next Bourdain: The Legendary Roots Crew needs no introduction, especially now that they're playing on Fallon every night. Quest is the beating heart of the group, but in recent years his culinary tastes have been on display just as much as his musical ones. From opening (and sadly closing) fried chicken joint Hybird, to lecturing at food panels at SXSW to hosting culinary salons with his famous friends, Quest has his feet deep in the foodie world. Were he ever to put down the sticks, he'd have no trouble picking up a fork.
Known for: LA's Korean taco truck revolution, author, consultant on the film Chef Why he's the next Bourdain: Choi's Kogi serves up a truly LA fusion of Korean cuisine in Mexican clothing, and that unique perspective on combining cultures has brought him to the forefront of a new class of media-savvy cooks. It's hard to argue with Jon Favreau's Chef as the biggest cinematic food event of the last few years, and it wouldn't have worked without Choi's consulting chops. The tour following the 2013 release of his book L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food saw him sharing the stage with Bourdain, and he's followed in Bourdain's footsteps with the CNN show Streeteats. He's also got one of the most entertaining Twitter accounts out there.
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. He once sat next to Bourdain at a barbecue trailer. Follow him to more celebrities passing him barbecue sauce at @Dannosphere.