Spanish chef Xanty Elías has won the Basque Culinary World Prize 2021 for his initiative “Los Niños se Comen El Futuro”, which works to educate the next generation about healthy eating.
Xanty has immersed himself in social projects to benefit the region. In 2017 he co-founded “Fundación Prenauta” with other local businesspeople, a non-profit that partners with community members to promote economic growth, providing consulting services and projects facilitation across the founders’ fields of expertise. Prenauta’s projects include a start-up incubator to source funding for entrepreneurs in the region.
Elías also educates children in the region about healthy eating. He believes that it’s possible to promote health and reform the way people think about and interact with food.
To address this, in 2018, “Fundación Prenauta” launched “Los Niños se Comen El Futuro”, an initiative that collaborates with companies and institutions throughout Andalusia to provide cultural education in schools. The programme teaches students traditional Andalusian recipes and shows them how to apply academic subjects like mathematics and chemistry to cooking, as well as educating them about healthy and sustainable eating. As part of the programme, chefs visit schools to deliver masterclasses. In the 2019/20 academic year, the programme reached over 15,000 schoolchildren across more than 100 schools in Andalusia. Elías hopes to expand “Los Niños se Comen El Futuro” throughout Spain at a national level.
Apart from that, it is important to mention that Xanty Elías’s former restaurant, Acánthum, in the Andalusian province of Huelva, was the first restaurant in the Spanish province to earn a Michelin star, and that his latest project, the soon-to-open Finca Alfoliz, located in Aljaraque, will be a restaurant fully focused on sustainability.
In addition to Elías, the BCWP jury also recognises the work of two chefs, granting special recognition to:
Kia Damon (United States of America)
Ana Estrela (Brazil/Italy)
The BCWP, now in its 6th edition, continues to bet on the transformative power of gastronomy by sharing inspiring stories of chefs who are spearheading social change beyond the kitchen. In each edition of the prize, through the winner and special mentions, the BCWP takes the opportunity to send a message and for the international community to examine the different areas in which a chef can add value to their community. In this edition, they have done it by highlighting food education, in addition to areas of social integration linked to immigration and the diversification of talent.
Gastronomy is a transformative force even in the most challenging contexts. For this reason, the Basque Culinary World Prize seeks to celebrate the way that chefs are using gastronomy as a tool to promote advances in areas ranging from social innovation to food education.
The Basque Culinary World Prize announces a winner and two special mentions reiterating its interest in highlighting the current challenges and identifying profiles of entrepreneurial chefs with a passion for excellence, as well as innovative, creative, and tenacious chefs, who are committed to their community.
The Basque Culinary World Prize is a unique €100,000 award for chefs around the world whose work has transformed society through gastronomy. This pioneering award – created in 2016 by the Basque Government and the Basque Culinary Center – honours chefs who are utilising their knowledge, talent, creativity, and strength to create positive change.
The winner is chosen by a jury made up of the world’s most influential chefs. Chaired by Joan Roca (El Cellar de Can Roca), the jury also included renowned names within gastronomy such as Gastón Acurio (Acurio Restaurants), Elena Arzak (Arzak Restaurant), Manu Buffara (Manu), Dan Barber (Blue Hill Farm), Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn), Enrique Olvera (Pujol), Trine Hahnemann (Hahnemanns Køkken) and Yoshihiro Narisawa (Les Créations de Narisawa).
Responding to his win, Xanty Elías said: “I am happy and very grateful to the Basque Culinary World Prize. It is a wonder to show that gastronomy and chefs can make society evolve towards a better future, where gastronomic culture has real value from the beginning of teaching. Los Niños se Comen El Futuro was born from the need to ‘share’ knowledge with the consumers of tomorrow, through a subject at school, at the same level as the other core subjects, helping to generate awareness and better habits. Empowering children to make conscious decisions about the food that they eat while still a child is the basis for a healthier and more sustainable future”.
Joan Roca, Chair of the Prize Jury, said: “Xanty’s work reflects the interest that chefs in so many parts of the world have in making gastronomy finally become part of the education that our society demands, instilling values in those who will be the future tomorrow. Children everywhere deserve to have the tools necessary to learn the true value of food, as an indispensable source for life but also as a catalyst for preserving cultures, heritages, and identities.
“For years, activists of all kinds have insisted on the incorporation of educational content related to food as a fundamental component of educating the next generation, from Alice Waters (and her Edible Schoolyard project) to people like Xanty Elías, who continues that international effort in Andalusia.”
Bittor Oroz, Deputy Minister of the Department of Economic Development and Infrastructure of the Basque Government, said: “The challenges facing the planet are global; the challenge of feeding a population that is estimated to be 10 billion people by 2050, climate change, pressure on natural resources, food waste, and more. The Basque Culinary World Prize offers us the opportunity to meet and connect with realities around the world with a common purpose, to use gastronomy as a transforming element in the face of some of these challenges. This award is part of the Euskadi–Basque Country comprehensive strategy. A country brand, which, based on strengths and singularities, positions the Basque Country as a relevant actor at the international level, jointly responsible and committed to the global agenda and sustainable human development: a singular, welcoming, resilient and innovative country that works together, cooperating as a global Basque community”.
Joxe Mari Aizega, Director General of the Basque Culinary Center, said: “Given the boom that gastronomy has experienced in recent decades, the role that our sector is called to play in society has become especially relevant. That is why, in its 6th edition and coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the Basque Culinary Center, the Basque Culinary World Prize aspires in 2021 to connect with reality and evolve to delve into inspiring characters such as Xanty, Kia, and Ana. Three exemplary professionals who have known how to take advantage of their knowledge, entrepreneurial vocation, creativity and will influence society by furthering sustainability, social integration, and diversity through gastronomy”.
Enrique Olvera, BCWP Jury Member and Executive Chef at Pujol Restaurant, commented on Kia Damon being named a special recognition chef, saying: “We live in times in which it is essential to guarantee access to healthy food for all sectors of the population, especially the most disadvantaged. Kia’s work takes care of that, of rethinking and repositioning good cuisine, so that it is not an exclusive matter of chefs and restaurants but a shared, wide and diverse space”.
Gastón Acurio, chief Jury Member, stated that: “Ana Estrela’s work exemplifies the effort to integrate people and their cultures through cooking, dignifying the work of people who reach borders that are unknown to them, in complex situations, bringing them closer to the society that welcomes them in spaces of mutual recognition. Although it is an experience in Italy, its history makes you think of your own country and how wherever you are there are people who hope to be integrated and how cooking can provide necessary contexts of empathy where we can take care of ourselves, love us and understand us”.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION BIOGRAPHIES:
Kia Damon is a rising star in America’s culinary scene and a powerful advocate for diversity in gastronomy. After noticing that the gastronomy sector was dominated by white, cisgender men, Damon founded the Supper Club from Nowhere as a response to the lack of visible black women in the industry. The initiative brings chefs and farmers together to combat food injustice and provide fresh produce to those in need. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Supper Club From Nowhere has focused on providing care packages to elderly people who have had difficulty accessing groceries. Damon also founded Kia Feeds the People and Auxillo, two non-profit organisations committed to combatting food apartheid and facilitating access to food in “food deserts” (generally African–American communities with few convenient places to obtain healthy food). Both organisations aim to provide not only food, but also culinary education to underserved communities in New York City. In recognition for her efforts, she was recognised as one of 16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America by the New York Times and was recently named on Forbes magazine’s 2021 30 Under 30 in Food and Beverage list.
Ana Estrela, a Brazilian-born former dancer and choreography assistant for several Afro–Brazilian dance groups, founded the Origins Cultural Association in Bari, Italy to promote Brazilian culture through various artistic and culinary events. Through her work at Origins, Ana came to recognise the power of gastronomy to generate common spaces where people from different cultures can come together through food. This recognition, alongside her passion for helping refugees who are too often marginalised, led her to create Ethnic Cook. Founded in 2013 and run exclusively by women, Ethnic Cook is a space where female immigrant chefs of fifteen different nationalities come together to build cultural bridges by sharing recipes from their countries of origin with the people of Italy. Ethnic Cook provides culinary training, encourages female entrepreneurship, and stimulates cultural understanding. These amateur chefs create extraordinary themed dinners and provide an overview of the culinary history of each country for events, including private parties and coffee breaks, in addition to running cooking classes for local children.
Basque Culinary World Prize 2021: Winner Selection Process
Nearly 1,000 nominations and 600 candidates have made up the analysis axis of an award assumed by the press as the “Nobel of Gastronomy”, supported by academics and experts of international prestige, including some of the best chefs of our time.
The 6th edition of the Basque Culinary World Prize received nominations from professionals in the gastronomy sector from around the world. To be considered for the award, chefs had to be nominated by another professional working in the world of gastronomy.
For two months, professionals and institutions in the industry nominated chefs from all over the world who have demonstrated that gastronomy can be an engine for positive change in areas such as innovation, education, the environment, and health. The Technical Committee, formed by an interdisciplinary group of experts, selected some of these characters, leaving in the hands of the jury the responsibility of choosing the winner of the Basque Culinary World Prize 2021.
Top image: Photo Credit Basque Culinary Center