Basque Culinary World Prize

Basque Culinary World Prize

Standard Supplier 19th April 2017





An award for chefs with groundbreaking projects outside the kitchen, judged by world´s most influential chefs

A final call was made today for Gastronomic professionals and institutions in the UK to nominate candidates for the Basque Culinary World Prize. The award, now in its second year, was created to recognise chefs with groundbreaking projects who have “improved society through gastronomy”, and is judged by some of the world’s most influential chefs. It reflects the evolution of gastronomy as a generation of chefs demonstrate that they can contribute to society ‘beyond the kitchen’.

Last year, British chef Alberto Crisci was shortlisted in the first year of the prize for his pioneering work with The Clink Charity a prisoner rehabilitation project operating restaurants in HMP Brixton, HMP Cardiff, HMP High Down and HMP Styal. Prisoners are trained to cook and serve customers as a first step towards their new lives. The scheme has so far achieved an 85% employment rate with less than 25% reoffending.

To be considered for the prize, chefs must be nominated via the Basque Culinary World Prize website, The nomination period will close in a month on 19 May 2017 and is open to chefs of every nationality who demonstrate how gastronomy can be a powerful force for change. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 18 July 2017 at the meeting of the International Committee of the Basque Culinary Center in Mexico City, which will be part of a major global event on biodiversity.

Two US-based chefs are on the Prize Jury of the Basque Culinary World Prize: Dominique Crenn, the chef proprietor of the Atelier Crenn in San Francisco and the first female chef in the US to win two Michelin stars, and Dan Barber, chef, writer and founder of the Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan. The Prize Committee, which will create a shortlist of 10 candidates for the Prize Jury to select a winner, includes Melina Shannon-DiPietro, director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, which oversees sustainable dining at Yale and manages an organic farm on campus.

The Basque Culinary World Prize is organized and promoted by the Basque Government under the Euskadi-Basque Country Strategy and the Basque Culinary Center (BCC), a world leading academic institution in gastronomy. It is an annual achievement award that celebrates a chef of any nationality who demonstrates how gastronomy can be a powerful force for change: those men or women whose impact can be felt ‘beyond the kitchen’ in areas ranging from innovation and research to education, health, the environment, social development and entrepreneurship, amongst others. The winner will receive €100,000 to devote to a project of their choice that demonstrates the wider role of gastronomy in society.

The award will be judged by many of the world’s most respected chefs, who make up the International Council of the Basque Culinary Center. It will be chaired by Joan Roca (Spain) and include Gastón Acurio (Peru), Ferran Adrià (Spain), Alex Atala (Brazil), Dan Barber (US), Michel Bras (France), Heston Blumenthal (UK), Massimo Bottura (Italy), Dominique Crenn (France), Yoshihiro Narisawa (Japan), Enrique Olvera (Mexico) and René Redzepi (Denmark). It also includes for the first time Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe, winner of the 2016 Basque Culinary World Prize. Leading experts from related disciplines will join the prize jury including celebrated Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel (author of Like Water for Chocolate); Kirmen Uribe, renowned Basque novelist, poet and playwright; and Italian expert in humanitarian action Cristina Franchini.

Arantxa Tapia, Minister of Economic Development and Infrastructure of the Basque Government, said:

“This award is part of the integrated Basque Country strategy. Our country’s brand, based on our strengths and individuality, positions us as a global player, as a benchmark of excellence, as a model of quality of life and social cohesion, and as a byword for innovation and competitiveness.

“We want the Basque Country to remain an international leader in gastronomy because we are convinced of the importance that this sector can achieve. We understand gastronomy as part of a ‘value chain’ for society - and as an engine of change that shakes up convention and creates solutions to social problems."

Joxe Mari Aizega, Director of the Basque Culinary Center, said:

“There is just a month left for gastronomic professionals to nominate a chef that they know of who is making a huge impact on their community. There are chefs out there doing great work that deserves recognition and celebration. The process of nomination is simple – go to www.basqueculinary and give us a brief description of why you think a particular chef is a worthy winner. We guarantee the anonymity of all those who nominate a chef”

Gastronomy can have a positive influence on society when chefs take on the responsibilities that come with having a public voice. In the second year of the prize, we aim to uncover more examples of great work ‘beyond the kitchen’ from chefs around the world - whether they are known or unknown.”

Joan Roca, Chair of the Prize Jury of the Basque Culinary World Prize, and chef owner, El Celler de Can Roca, Catalonia, Spain said:

“The Basque Culinary World Prize identifies men and women working in gastronomy and striving to excel. Those innovative, creative, determined - and sometimes impetuous - trailblazers who are engaged with their community and demonstrate every day how gastronomy can be an engine for transformation.”


A generation of international chefs have redefined their profession by integrating new skills, creativity, innovation and social concerns into their approach. The Basque Culinary World Prize celebrates this evolution, and is open to chefs of any nationality who demonstrate how gastronomy can be a powerful force for change. All members of the BCC’s International Council who are present at its annual meeting in Mexico City in July will take part in the judging process, together with their guest experts.

After nominations have closed, the proposed names will be considered by the Prize Committee - a group of academics from universities such as the Department of Food Systems, Culture and Society at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) - plus special guests. They include Elena Arzak - one of the most celebrated female chefs in the world and joint head chef at Arzak in San Sebastian; Dr F. Xavier Medina - a social anthropologist and leading scholar of Food and Culture; Marta Miguel Castro - an expert in food science; Jorge Ruiz Carrascal - Professor of the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen; and Melissa Shannon Di Pietro - co-founder of the Yale Sustainable Food Project and Managing Director of Rene Redzepi’s influential MAD Foundation.

Together they will assess which of the nominees meet the judging criteria and will select a list of the strongest ten finalists to pass them on to the Prize Jury, who will choose the winner, to be announced on July 18 in Mexico City. The award will be officially conferred at an event in the Basque Country in the autumn.

Last year, nominations came from over 30 countries worldwide and 110 different chefs were nominated. The¬¬¬ projects with which they were involved ranged from innovation to education, health, research, sustainability, social entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and the preservation of local cultures.

The winner of the inaugural Basque Culinary World Prize 2016 was Venezuelan chef Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe. She was chosen for her pioneering work with Venezuelan chocolate through social projects such as Kakao and Cacao de Origen, with which she has built an ecosystem of education, entrepreneurship, research and development around the Criollo cacao bean, making it a source of identity, culture and economic progress. Amid the complex political situation in her country, she has given opportunities to women in economically vulnerable conditions.

Last year’s winner, Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe, said:

“Since we won the prize, our work has taken on a new dimension. We have helped many more women become ‘chocolate entrepreneurs’. It has allowed us to set new goals and open up new ways to connect with the world. The news of the prize reached all of Venezuela – even in remote areas. People who had never really considered that cacao was a crop that could improve their lives have contacted me to tell me their story and ask for guidance.”


Heston Blumenthal, chef owner of The Fat Duck in Bray, UK

“The Basque Culinary World Prize is important as it identifies those men and women making a difference ‘beyond the kitchen’ to create a change through innovation and creativity. I’m looking forward to celebrating chefs who are striving to improve society through gastronomy. As chefs, we have a responsibility to do more with communities around the world.”

Massimo Bottura, chef owner of Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy

“With this prize, we hope to share with the world stories of chefs that are using gastronomy for a better future. We need people to nominate those who are fighting for it in any way, even on a small scale: we are all part of the revolution.

“Because I am convinced that culture, knowledge, consciousness and a sense of responsibility are the basics for the chef of the future, I am proud to be part of this prize, hoping it will inspire and mobilize those who want to make a difference by committing themselves to society.”

Enrique Olvera, chef owner of Pujol, Mexico City and Cosme, New York, USA

“If your work in the kitchen is good, it can do good to society. It can have an impact not only on people but also the environment, economy or culture. We are looking for nominations that express that reality, and to reward those who work for the greater good. It’s important to have the whole gastronomic sector involved in nominating."

Gastón Acurio, credited with the worldwide revolution in Peruvian cuisine, runs over 40 restaurants worldwide

"Cooking is not an end in itself, but a pathway to achieve more important things. It has real power to transform society because it touches everything: education, the environment, entrepreneurship, cultural identity, agriculture, trade. For a long time, that power has not been well understood. Today, finally it is. The kitchen has proven to be a powerful engine for change. Therefore, chefs must be committed and aware of the possibility they have to help create a more just, generous and sustainable society."

Michel Bras, chef owner of Bras, Aubrac, France

“Cuisine is life: we cannot forget that. That is the reason I love seeing that some chefs trace their vocation back to their sense of humanity. I find this amazing, because it is not something ephemeral: it is the future of cuisine. Today’s chefs are wise to have set out on this path.”

Dan Barber, chef of the Blue Hill in New York, USA

“A growing number of chefs have joined the ranks of activists advancing the agenda of changing our food system… Today's food culture has given chefs a platform of influence, including the power, if not the luxury, to innovate. As arbiters of taste, we can help inspire a Third Plate, a new way of eating that puts it all together.”

Dominique Crenn, chef of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, USA

“When I learned about the Basque Culinary World Prize I thought it was an incredible way of bringing to the table a discussion that perhaps we hadn’t thought about enough – celebrating those nominees who are doing something incredible to empower their community through food.”

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