Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe, winner of the
2016 Basque Culinary World Prize
Awarded by a jury of the world’s most influential chefs and leading experts from the world of gastronomy  

Gastronomic professionals and institutions are now invited to nominate candidates for the second Basque Culinary World Prize.  The award, now in its second year, was created to recognise chefs who have “improved society through gastronomy.”  It reflects the evolution of gastronomy as a generation of chefs demonstrates that they can contribute to society ‘beyond the kitchen’. 
The nomination period will remain open for two months until Tuesday 2 May 2017. To be considered for the prize, chefs must be nominated via the Basque Culinary World Prize website, The winner will be announced on Sunday 16 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. 
The Basque Culinary World Prize is organized and promoted by the Basque Culinary Center (BCC), a world leading academic institution in gastronomy, and the Basque Government under the Euskadi-Basque Country Strategy
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); and Kirmen Uribe, renowned Basque novelist, poet and playwright. 
Joan Roca, Chair of the Prize Jury of the Basque Culinary World Prize, and founder of the restaurant , El Celler de Can Roca, 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.”
Joxe Mari Aizega, Head of the Basque Culinary Center, said: 
“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.” 
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. 
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."                        
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.” 
A generation of international chefs has 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. 
Heston Blumenthal, chef patron 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 patron 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, head chef of Mexico’s number one restaurant, Pujol
“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 patron of the hotel restaurant 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, writer and founder of the Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan
“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 and chief proprietor of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco
“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.”
To be considered for the award, chefs must be nominated by another professional who is currently working in the world of gastronomy - for instance, another chef, food writer or food supplier, or an institution.   
The Basque Culinary Center wants to use the collective knowledge of the gastronomic community to unearth candidates from around the world who have improved society through gastronomy but have not necessarily come to wider public attention. Anyone with a background working as a professional chef - from any culinary tradition - is eligible for the prize.  
After nominations have closed, the proposed names will be considered by the Prize Committee - a group of academics from the Basque Culinary Center and other 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 a head chef at Ametsa in London; 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.  
Notes to editors:
  1. The Basque Culinary Center is one of the most prestigious gastronomic universities in the world, with a groundbreaking Research and Innovation Centre in the field of food and Gastronomy.
  2. Members of the Prize Jury and the Prize Committee will not be eligible to win the Basque Culinary World Prize.
  3. Members of the Prize Jury - longer versions of these biographies are available at
  4. The finalists for the 2016 Basque Culinary World Prize includeAlberto Crisci (United Kingdom), Alicia Gironella (Mexico), Ángel León (Spain), Ann Cooper (USA), Carlos Zamora (Spain), Daniel Boulud (France/USA), David Hertz (Brazil), Gabriel Garza (Mexico), Jessamyn Rodriguez (Canada/USA), José Andrés (Spain/USA), Joshna Maharaj (South Africa/Canada), Leonor Espinosa (Colombia), Manoela Buffara (Brazil), Margot Janse (Holland), Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe (Venezuela), Massimiliano Alajmo (Italy), Nani Moré (Spain), Rodolfo Guzmán, (Chile), Teresa Corçao (Brazil). Additionally, Kamilla Seidler (Denmark) and Michelangelo Cestari (Venezuela) in one single nomination for their combined efforts in Bolivia. 

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