The prize will support the Scottish chef’s work to connect Indigenous peoples to the rest of Australian society by creating a market for their culinary heritage.
The Scottish chef Jock Zonfrillo was awarded the Basque Culinary World Prize 2018, during a prize-giving gala on 22 November at the Victoria Eugenia Theatre in San Sebastián.
The Basque Culinary World Prize is organised and promoted by the Basque Government, under the Euskadi-Basque Country Strategy and the Basque Culinary Center (BCC), a world-leading academic institution in gastronomy. It is an award for chefs improving society through gastronomy in areas ranging from innovation to education, health, research, sustainability, social entrepreneurship and economic development.
In the presence of a distinguished audience, the Basque Government’s Councillor for Economic Development and Infrastructure, Arantxa Tapia, awarded Jock Zonfrillo the prize, now in its third edition, for his work challenging the exclusion of the First Australians from contemporary Australia’s history and culture. Through his Orana Foundation, Jock Zonfrillo preserves the sophisticated cooking knowledge and practice of Indigenous Australians who have farmed and thrived on the land for 60,000 years.
Since making Australia his home, in 2000, Jock Zonfrillo has visited remote communities to understand the origins of ingredients and their cultural significance. He has given them a platform on the menus of his prestigious Orana restaurant, based in Adelaide, and has brought Aboriginal cultural traditions to wider audiences through programs such as the Nomad Chef.
The chef has documented native products and worked with them in innovative ways. Through alliances with universities and institutions including The University of Adelaide, the South Australian Museum, and the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, he has ensured that information on these ingredients has been verified and recorded as part of a new database of Indigenous ingredients.
The Basque Culinary World Prize fund of €100,000 will be used by Jock Zonfrillo’s Orana Foundation to support this Indigenous food database. Eventually, it will feature 10,000-15,000 edible native ingredients, enabling the commercial production of ingredients and creating new food-based enterprises for Indigenous communities. The Basque Culinary World Prize funds will help develop the software required to house the 2,000 ingredients already analysed and to scale to 15,000 ingredients over the next few years.
In addition, the prize funds will be used by Orana to support projects that promote Australia’s traditional food culture. They include:
1. Community packing shed: built in the Kimberley, Western Australia, for the Nyul Nyul community to utilise as a processing and packing shed for wild harvested product. The shed is built from sustainable bamboo to prevent termite rot in the community and is assembled with minimal impact on the land. Processing and packing products at source will increase their shelf life, nutritional value and their hygiene standards, giving the community the ability to broaden their market far beyond what is currently possible.
2. Farming freshwater prawns: the Orana Foundation has been researching the possibility of farming Cherabin, a giant freshwater prawn living wild in the freshwaters of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The foundation is partnering with an Indigenous-owned organisation, which has aquaculture experience, to Cherabin to the Australian Market. The Basque Culinary World Prize funds will fund the purchase of a mobile shellfish processing plant, allowing remote Indigenous communities to snap-freeze the prawns and transport them to Australian cities.
Jock Zonfrillo was selected as winner of the Basque Culinary World Prize 2018 from ten finalists, by a jury led by Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca restaurant (Spain) and composed of some of the world’s most influential chefs, such as Gastón Acurio (Peru), Massimo Bottura (Italy), Manu Buffara (Brazil), Mauro Colagreco (France), Dominique Crenn (USA), Andoni Luis Aduriz (Basque Country), Yoshihiro Narisawa (Japan), Enrique Olvera (Mexico), Leonor Espinosa, winner of the Basque Culinary World Prize 2017, as well as experts in other disciplines, such as food writer Ruth Reichl, food historian Bee Wilson, and interior designer Ilse Crawford.
The winner was announced at Collegio San Carlo, in Modena, in July following a meeting of the prize jury in the city. Modena is the hometown of chef Massimo Bottura, a prize jury member and one of the pioneering chefs who first brought gastronomy’s impact ‘beyond the kitchen’.
Before the prize gala, Jock Zonfrillo said, "I’m so extraordinarily proud to have been chosen as the winner of the 2018 Basque Culinary World Prize. To have a jury of peers who I respect so much makes this acknowledgement even more meaningful.
Indigenous communities in Australia are the true cooks and ‘food inventors’ and have thrived on these lands for over 60,000 years. This international recognition symbolises just how important it is to gastronomy that we preserve their sophisticated cooking techniques and foods, and gives courage to us at The Orana Foundation to keep fighting on their behalf.
100 per cent of the prize money is being invested into Indigenous community projects that will see a long-term and sustainable impact on their community and financial security, and make positive change on their terms.
The world of gastronomy is an enabler for change and the Basque Culinary World Prize is an instrumental part of that wave of change."
Arantxa Tapia, the councillor for Economic Development and Infrastructure, said; “The food and gastronomy sector has established itself as one of the most important sectors for development and innovation in the Basque Country, based on both the potential and the capabilities that are already evident, since it is now responsible for 10 per cent of the GDP. The sector has a great capacity to generate employment and produce new products and entrepreneurial projects.
The project that has been awarded this year’s Basque Culinary World Prize is a clear example of innovation in a social economy through transformative action that revolves around gastronomy.”
Vicente Atxa, Dean of Mondragon University and President of the Board of the Basque Culinary Center, said, “The rise of the gastronomy sector over the last few years has put chefs in the spotlight. We are certain that this sector can improve its standing when its stakeholders contribute to addressing relevant social problems.
“We are in the now in the third edition of Basque Culinary World Prize and the revolution it celebrates - chefs involving themselves in society ‘beyond the kitchen ’ - is continuing to spread. The prize has grown stronger through its winners: they lead by example to a new and inspiring way of embracing gastronomy. At the Basque Culinary Center, we have developed the economic and social potential of gastronomy. The prize has shined a powerful spotlight on the work of chefs at the forefront of this movement that can educate and inspire others”
Joan Roca, Chair of the Prize Jury, said, “For over 15 years Jock has dedicated himself to understanding and promoting one of the oldest cultures on the planet – that of the native peoples of Australia. This Scottish chef, with exchange and research, has been showing the culinary potential of a long-ignored inheritance to the world. Through the identification of ingredients and traditions and his commitment to transforming the knowledge of these peoples into development opportunities, Zonfrillo sows the seeds for a better future.”