Hugh Grant — one of the most powerful people in food?

I was, frankly, a little perplexed, until I read that there's another Hugh Grant out there besides the movie star. And he happens to be the chairman, president and CEO of The Monsanto Co., the world's largest producer of genetically modified seeds and the manufacturer of Roundup, the most commonly used agricultural pesticide around the world.

So, yes, he does deserve a place on's list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Food for 2012.

"Grant has a major influence of the food we eat and what we will eat more of in the future, whether we like it or not," is how the food-related website puts it.

It seems that the world is fond of lists today — the top 10 movies of the year, the top 100 places you should visit before you die, the top 10 food trends for 2012, and so on. So, it's no surprise that someone put together a list like this.

Coleman Andrews,'s editorial director, wrote that the people were chosen for their ability to change the landscape of the food world, influencing what foods get produced and how we consume them.

Yeah, there are some TV personalities and celebrity chefs, such as Martha Stewart (49) and Tom Colicchio (38) of Bravo TV's "Top Chef."

But many more are CEOs of food-related companies and organizations. "You might not recognize all the names — sometimes CEOs wield more might than culinary celebrities — but they all definitely affect the way we eat," wrote Andrews.

What, no Rachael Ray? Bobby Flay? Paula Deen? Nope, they didn't even make the list. Mario Batali (22) and Wolfgang Puck (13) were the highest-ranking TV food personalities.

The No. 1 most powerful person, as deemed by TheDailyMeal folks, is Brooke Johnson, president of the Food Network.

According to TheDailyMeal, "Food Network changed our culinary landscape. It didn't invent celebrity chefs, but it gave them greater celebrity and created them by the bushel."

The story noted that "without The Food Network, Rachael Ray would still be selling gourmet groceries and Guy Fieri would still be dishing out garlic fries."

The No. 2 spot went to Thomas Vilsak, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the country's food safety systems and sets nutritional guidelines.

No. 3 was Jeremy Stoppelman, co-founder and co-CEO of Yelp, the restaurant review website that has amassed 22 million local restaurant reviews. Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke was No. 4 on the list, and the CEOs of PepsiCo and McDonald's were Nos. 5 and 6 — which underscores the fact that supplying food is big business.

Whether you love these companies or hate them, you have to admit that they wield a lot of power.

First Lady Michelle Obama was No. 8 on the list, for turning the spotlight on healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables with her White House Garden and "Let's Move" campaign.

Some other major food players include:

Mark Bittman (48), op-ed columnist for the New York Times

Bill Marler (46), an attorney who has been litigating food-borne illness cases since 1993

Will Allen (50), CEO of an urban agriculture movement called Growing Power

Dr. Oz (40), host of "The Dr. Oz Show"

Michael Pollan (36), author of "Omnivore's Dilemma"

Thomas Keller (31), chef-restaurateur of The French Laundry in San Francisco and Per Se in New York

David Dillon (30), chairman and CEO of The Kroger Co., the country's largest grocery store chain

Bill Shore (28), founder and CEO of Share Our Strength, a nonprofit group with a goal of ending hunger in America

Donnie Smith (12), president and CEO of Tyson Foods

It's obvious that a lot of thought has gone into this list.

I might quibble with some placements — for instance, I think there are other celebrity chefs who have eclipsed Wolfgang Puck in today's food world.

But the list makes it pretty obvious that a lot of America's biggest food decisions take place in boardrooms, not farms or kitchens.

Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor. She blogs at Email: [email protected]