Transforming Society Through Gastronomy

Top international chefs and leading gastronomic figures share their vision of gastronomy in the post-coronavirus world. 

Leading international chefs, including former winners and finalists of the Basque Culinary World Prize (BCWP), came together in an exciting virtual event to discuss the future of gastronomy in a post-coronavirus world and how the prize has aided in their efforts to use gastronomy as a tool for social change, five years after the prize was founded. 

The online event, which around 500 people participated in, was hosted by the Basque Culinary World Prize (BCWP), an annual prize created and awarded by the Basque Culinary Center and the Basque Government to a trailblazing chef making an impact “beyond the kitchen”. 

Much is said in the abstract about the role of gastronomy. Moving to the level of taking action and sharing good practices is, however, what gives shape to the future of the sector. So many professionals today, including the phenomenal chefs who participated in this event, are committed to social innovation, talent diversification, food education, sustainability, and more. In Rwanda, Peru, Australia … all over the world there are chefs going from saying to doing and this is exciting.

The chefs taking part were: 

●  Mauro Colagreco (Argentina/Italy): Three-Michelin-star Italian–Argentine chef, member of the BCWP prize jury, and first-place winner of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2019 for his French restaurant Mirazur
●  Leonor Espinosa (Colombia):2017 Basque Culinary World Prize winner and founder of FUNLEO foundation, whose Colombian restaurant (Leo Cocina y Cava) was ranked among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2020 
●  Matt Jozwiak (USA): A chef that launched Rethink Food, an organisation that collects excess food from restaurants, grocery stores and corporate kitchens to make nutritious meals for those facing food poverty
●  Josh Niland (Australia): Australian chef and pioneer of the No Waste movement 
●  Juan Llorca (Spain):Spanish chef, YouTuber, and founder of “Por una Escuela bien Nutrida”, which seeks to spark a conversation about school meals 
●  Karin Abensur (Peru):Founder of Karin Ecofish, a social enterprise that trains female fishermen and promotes sustainable fishing
●  Dieuveil Malonga (Democratic Republic of Congo): Former Top Chef contestant and founder of Chefs in Africa 
●  Nicole Pisani (Malta/United Kingdom):Campaigner and co-founder of Chefs in Schools, which seeks to ensure that all children have access to nutritious meals 

The event was moderated by gastronomic journalist and writer Sasha Correa and BCC Innovation chef-researcher Estefanía Simón-Sasyk.

Mauro Colagreco said:
“This is a moment to reactivate things. We have to rethink how we are doing things. All of us can generate an impact. And I think that the current situation doesn’t allow us to wait until the impact comes from somewhere else. You have to generate the impact … I think we have to invite everyone in the food industry to change the way in which we work, the way in which we consume, the way in which we produce. If we are not generating the change, the change will be imposed from somewhere else.”

Leonor Espinosa said:
“You have to go to different areas, you have to get to know people, you have to observe and research and experience. These are processes you cannot leave aside. How do I recognise the ethnobotanical uses of products? How do I recognise the memories? How does the ingredient behave? When you analyse these factors, you can be a cook, but you have to go beyond that. You must have a commitment to knowledge, a commitment to that memory which gives an identity to a country.”

Matt Jozwiak said:
“I think that we as an industry need to shake off a little bit of the old image of what a chef is … I think chefs kind of get a bad rap sometimes as a crazy cook or whatever. Now, as chefs go forward, they’re really being seen as community leaders, which I think is extremely important.”
Josh Niland said:
“The most sustainable way forward is utilising the whole animal and not constantly requesting one specific part of that animal. In this case when we’re talking about fish, it’s to take that same mindset of those that rear an animal from its very infancy right through to then killing that animal and then feeding the family with it … We need to see fish as something that needs to be consumed enthusiastically and wholeheartedly. As a chef, my responsibility is not flicking the lids off caviar, it’s realising that I have a responsibility to use my education, technique, and training to bring comfort to the customer and educate the next generation of chefs.” 

Juan Llorca said:
“I think that what I was doing in the school kitchen was something that hadn’t been done in this country so I had to express that. Social media is a platform to tell the world that things can be done in a different way. I wanted to demonstrate that children can do really well just eating as adults do. So I started telling that story on social media.”

Karin Abensur said:
“[Fisherwomen] are few and we are a little bit invisible, but we are increasing more and more. Now if there is a 14-year-old who wants to be a fisherwoman, she will not have the problems that we did.”

Dieuveil Malonga said:
“During my travels, I discovered many chefs that have talent, but nobody knows them and they don’t have visibility. I visited farms that do an amazing job, but nobody knows them. The problem was the connection between professionals and new chefs. So I decided to go back to the continent and create my platform called Chefs in Africa … Our ambition is to connect chefs in Africa, in the diaspora, in Colombia, in Venezuela. It was important to us to share information and our food culture. Since we started five years ago now, we have given over 1,000 jobs to African chefs … The world is ready for African cuisine … the game is changing. Food doesn’t have borders. That’s very important. That’s why we want to share African cuisine.”

Nicole Pisani said: 
“I came to a point in my life where I felt like I needed to change my relationship with food. I needed to stop thinking about food as a commodity. As soon as I walked into a school it was the answer to changing my relationship with food. I started to feed children rather than cook. By chefs being the centre of the kitchen it changes the whole food culture. The obsession that we have with food is such an amazing thing because then kids get obsessed as well … Coming out of the pandemic we need to come together more. One of the big things that I saw during the pandemic was the humanity … We need to be in touch more with our food. We need to ask questions. We need to eat what’s outside our window instead of importing things just for the sake of it. There are so many solutions, but educating kids is key.”
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Policy of the Basque Government Bittor Oroz highlighted that
“We know that we will only be able to strengthen the Basque Country as a territory of international renown through collaboration. Projects such as the Basque Culinary World Prize are part of the Basque Country Internationalization Strategy. A country brand that based on our unique strengths positions us as a global actor, a benchmark of excellence, as a model of quality of life and social cohesion, and as an innovative and competitive territory.”

For his part, Joxe Mari Aizega, Director of the Basque Culinary Center, stressed that:
“Since we started suffering the effects of the pandemic in 2020, we have proven that gastronomy is a transformative force even in the most challenging of contexts. For this reason, at the Basque Culinary World Prize we want to persist in celebrating the way that professionals in this sector make gastronomy a tool to help solve some of our biggest global challenges. That is why this year the objective of the award will continue to be to shine a light on the work of chefs who reflect what happens when they use their knowledge, leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and strength to set an example and create positive change.”

Nominations for the Basque Culinary World Prize 2021 will remain open until Monday, May 31, 2021.

About the Basque Culinary World Prize 
The Basque Culinary World Prize is a prize created and awarded by the Basque Government in collaboration with Basque Culinary Center, and is part of the comprehensive Basque Country strategy. A country brand that, based on unique strengths, positions Euskadi as a global player, a benchmark for excellence, a model of quality of life and social cohesion, and as an innovative and competitive country.  

The prize is endorsed and awarded by Basque Culinary Center, a pioneering institution worldwide that is dedicated to university education and the development of the potential of gastronomy in relation to education, research, innovation and entrepreneurship. Since its creation in San Sebastian in 2009, it has concentrated its efforts on creating an interdisciplinary space that contributes to the professionalisation of the sector.  

An interdisciplinary jury, made up of some of the most influential chefs in the world, selects the winner together with academics and international experts. Every year they choose a chef whose work embodies the ethos of the prize: to transform society through gastronomy. The winner will receive 100,000 euros, which they will devote to an initiative of their choice that expresses the transformative power of gastronomy.  

More information is available at:

Image credit: BCWP

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