Basque World Culinary Prize Finalists Have Been Announced : New Worlder

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The Top 20 finalists of the Basque Culinary World Prize, organized and promoted by the Basque Culinary Center (BCC), were announced today. The award, which comes with a €100,000 award to devote to a project or institution of their choice that demonstrates the wider role of gastronomy in society, will be announced on July 11.

“It has been exciting to see that there are chefs who are using the essence of our profession to promote change or be part valuable projects that contribute to society in so many different ways,” said Elena Arzak, the chair of the prize committee. “That’s something we couldn’t have even imagined a few years ago. I’m so proud of my peers.”

Thirteen of the nominees are from Spain and Latin America. Each believes that collectively, gastronomy can change the world. I have had the pleasure of knowing several of the nominees and seeing their work up close in the last several months. In Bolivia, what Kamilla Seidler and Michelangelo Cestari have done not only with the restaurant Gustu, but an entire web of culinary projects that ranges from inspiring indigenous farmers and foragers and helping them sustainably make a living while at the same time preserving the fragile ecosystems around them to giving impoverished altiplano residents direction to not just eat better, but to create micro economies out of eating better and serving better food. Rodolfo Guzmán, the chef of Chile’s Boragó, has helped make a case for Chile’s unique biodiversity and how it can be used to help feed the world. Colombia’s Leonor Espinosa has helped connect Colombia’s indigenous communities, along with their cultural traditons and ancestral ingredients, to a suddenly powerful country of 50 million people. Each has done this work humbly, propelled by their own ambitions, and are very deserving of this recognition, as are all of the other nominees. Additional finalists include Gastromotiva’s Dabid Hertiz from Brazil, Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe from Venezuela, and Spain’s José Andrés.

The 20 Basque World Culinary Prize finalists were chosen by a multi-disciplinary Prize Committee who met ten days ago in Vitoria, Spain. They were chaired by celebrated Basque chef Elena Arzak and included an international group of academics with expertise in various aspects of food culture and gastronomy.

Entries came from over 30 countries worldwide, and a total of 110 chefs were nominated for projects including everything from innovation to education, health, research, sustainability, social entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and the preservation of local cultures.  To be considered for the award, chefs had to be nominated by another professional currently working in the world of gastronomy – for instance, another chef, food writer or food supplier, or an institution.

A winner will be chosen from the final 20 by a Prize Jury of the world’s most influential chefs including Joan Roca (Spain): Gastón Acurio (Peru), Ferran Adrià (Spain), Alex Atala (Brazil), Dan Barber (US), Heston Blumenthal (UK), Massimo Bottura (Italy), Michel Bras (France), Dominique Crenn (France), Yukio Hattori (Japan), Enrique Olvera (Mexico), Yoshihiro Narisawa (Japan), and René Redzepi (Denmark).