Maria Elena Durazo
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More Powerful People

Maria Elena Durazo
Executive secretary-treasurer, L.A. County Federation of Labor; 53, El Sereno (Kwaku Alston / For The Times)
Douglas R. Failing
Director, Caltrans District 7; 48, Arcadia (Gregg Segal / For The Times)
Deirdre ‘Deedie’ Hudnut
Admissions director, the Center for Early Education; 58, Beverly Hills (Kwaku Alston / For The Times)
Frank Jao
Chairman and CEO, Bridgecreek Group; 57, Huntington Beach (Gregg Segal / For The Times)
Mark Lisanti
Editor,; 32, Silver Lake (Kwaku Alston / For The Times)
Bart O’Brien
Plant guru; 50, Upland (Kwaku Alston / For The Times)
Alexandra Patsavas
Music supervisor; 38, Pasadena (Kwaku Alston / For The Times)
Trader Joe’s Tasting Panel, Monrovia
We cannot name them. We cannot show their faces. Otherwise, Trader Joe would have to kill us, and that would mean no more chili lime peanuts and Two-Buck Chuck for us. What we can say is that there are more than 10 of them and fewer than 40, and they’re easily the most powerful group of food critics in Southern California. The Monrovia-based grocery chain has more weirdly addictive foods—and a more cult-like fan base—than probably any supermarket nationally. The reason is its expert tasting panel, which meets daily in secret to determine down to the last package of mandarin orange chicken what will go on the shelves of Trader Joe’s groceries, which now number 256 in 20 states, including 82 stores regionally. (Gregg Segal / For The Times)