This U.S. Chef Just Took Home the Basque Culinary World Prize
The 2019 winner was recognized for his work tackling climate change.
Near the end of June, the Basque Culinary World Prize—created by the Basque Government under the Euskadi-Basque Country Strategy and the Basque Culinary Center—announced its list of 2019 finalists. Featuring 10 chefs from all over the world, the list included Virgilio Martínez (behind Lima’s award-winning Central), Cristina Martínez from Philadelphia’s beloved South Philly Barbacoa, and Selassie Atadika, who runs Midunu in Accra, Ghana. The award recognizes “trailblazing chefs whose work has had an impact 'beyond the kitchen’”—and on Wednesday, this year’s winner was announced at the "Sustainable Thinking" Symposium in San Francisco. The chef taking home the grand €100,000 (about $112,235) is none other than Anthony Myint, co-founder of Mission Street Food (which eventually morphed into Mission Chinese Food) and The Perennial.
The organization said Myint was recognized for his work tackling climate change and addressing the role that the restaurant industry plays in it. ZeroFoodprint, a non-profit he co-founded with Peter Freed and Chris Ying, works with restaurants to help reduce and offset their carbon footprints—according to the website, the organization examines each business “from the ingredients used, to the types of light bulbs installed in the dry storage room.” Noma, Atelier Crenn, and Cala are among some of big-name restaurants participating, with Mirazur in France and Spago set to join soon. Plus, Myint also launched the Perennial Farming Initiative with his wife, Karen Leibowitz, which supports progressive agriculture—“food production that is not only environmentally responsible, but also equitable, productive, and delicious,” starting from the ground up with healthy soil.
"I started cooking because I believe restaurants can make the world a better place and becoming a parent seven years ago really inspired me to explore what chefs can do about climate change,” Myint said in a statement. “Since then, scientists have confirmed that healthy soil and good farming can solve global warming! I’m truly excited that the Basque Culinary World Prize brings attention to the optimistic solutions in the food world, and I’m incredibly honored to represent what I hope is the beginning of a much larger movement."
Over the course of three months, 230 nominations came in from 42 different countries (150 total chefs were nominated) for the 2019 Basque Culinary World Prize; Dominique Crenn, Enrique Olvera, and Massimo Bottura were among the chefs on the international jury panel that selected Myint as the winner. Myint will be able to use the prize money toward a cause or institution of his choice that “demonstrates the wider role of gastronomy in society.”