Top chefs launch global culinary award with a sustainable twist

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SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN — Some of the world’s top chefs launched a new global culinary prize on Monday aimed at rewarding cooks who use their skills to make an impact beyond the kitchen and onto society.

Spanish chefs (L-R) Joan Roca, Elena Arzak and Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio pose with the Basque Culinary World Prize, at the Basque Culinary Center in the Spanish Basque city of San Sebastian on Feb. 1. — AFP

Joan Roca, whose eatery El Celler de Can Roca was voted the world’s best last year by the influential Restaurant magazine, and Peru’s Gaston Acurio launched the prize in San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country, known for its plethora of Michelin stars.

Both will be on the jury of an award that was created by the Basque Culinary Center, a gastronomic university born off the back of a revolution in Spanish cuisine perhaps best epitomized by Ferran Adria, the father of molecular gastronomy.

“The key of the award is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be haute cuisine,” Mr. Roca told AFP.

He said the prize aimed first and foremost to reward “an initiative in the gastronomic area that will be strongly engaged with society.”

World renowned chefs have for years used their fame and skills for charitable work, such as Jamie Oliver who campaigned for healthy school dinners or helped young unemployed people by training them to work in his restaurant Fifteen.

Mr. Acurio himself has opened a culinary school for underprivileged children in Peru.

But the so-called Basque Culinary World Prize will be the first to reward such practices.

“Every year the prize will go to a chef who demonstrates how gastronomy can translate into a transformative force,” said Joxe Mari Aizega, general manager of the center.

“It will help to highlight the work that is being done the world over — projects linked to cultural themes, social responsibility, sustainability or economic development.”

To be considered for the prize, chefs have to be nominated online by a professional from the gastronomy world.

The winner will receive €100,000 ($109,000) that he or she will have to reinvest into a project that demonstrates the wider role of gastronomy in society.

Nominations opened on Monday and will close on April 30. In June, 20 finalists will be selected and the winner will be announced on July 11.

Apart from Messrs. Roca and Acurio, the jury will also include Adria, Britain’s Heston Blumenthal and France’s Michel Bras, as well as other experts such as Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights. — AFP