The opening of nominations for the 2018 Basque Culinary World Prize was celebrated at Refettorio Felix in London.
Now in its third year, the prize is an international award created by the Basque government and the Basque Culinary Center (BCC) to celebrate chefs whose work has made an impact beyond the kitchen in areas such as innovation, technology, education, environment, health, food industry and social or economic development.
“What we understand about gastronomy has changed,” said Joxe Mari Aizega, director of the BBC. “Around ten years ago it was more about Michelin stars, but the concept changed when chefs started to involve themselves in projects outside the restaurants. We want to promote the chefs that show they can take that leadership.”
These changes led the BCC to create the prize, specifically to highlight the chefs that commit themselves to making a difference in society. “Three years ago it was our intuition that this was happening all over the world and since then we have had over 500 nominations from across the globe.”
The winner will receive €100,000 to be spent on a project of their choice, demonstrating the transformative power of gastronomy.
Previous winners are Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe who works with local cacao producers in Venezuela and Leonor Espinosa who was the 2017 recipient for her culinary work with indigenous people in Colombia through her social foundation FunLeo.
Brett Graham, chef owner of The Ledbury restaurant in London was in the kitchen alongside Alberto Crisci MBE, founder of Clink Restaurants and a finalist in the 2016 Basque Culinary World Prize, at the launch. Graham believes the prize is an important one. “Chefs are in a hugely powerful position to influence what people put in their mouths and the prize inspires people to come up with ways to change how we eat,” he said. “Chefs around the world are in a great position to do this.”
Nominations close on 31 May and the prize will be decided in July by a judging panel made up of some of the world’s most influential chefs, academics and international experts, including Joan Roca, Ferran Adriá, Enrique Olvera, Massimo Bottura and Dominique Crenn. The winner will be presented with the award at a ceremony at the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastián in November.
For nominations visit www.basqueculinaryworldprize.com
Photo, L-R: Brett Graham, Jose Mari Aizega, Alberto Crisci MBE