The honoree will receive €100,000 to "devote to a project or institution that expresses the ethos of the prize: to transform society through gastronomy."
The winner of the third annual Basque Culinary World Prize, which is given to a person who is “improving society through gastronomy,” has been announced: Scottish-born, Australia-raised chef Jonk Zonfrillo. Zonfrillo has received the honor for “championing the culture of the native peoples of Australia and safeguarding Aboriginal culinary tradition.”
Zonfrillo relocated to Australia in 2000 and has since been traveling to remote Aboriginal communities, where he has studied indigenous ingredients and their cultural significance. So far, Zonfrillo’s Orana Foundation has cataloged 1,200 ingredients, which he hopes can be shared through what he calls the Indigenous Food Network—a free online database that will ideally help create business opportunities for these communities by providing a means of marketing their products.
“My motivation comes from acknowledging a culture who farmed and thrived from the land they have lived on for over 60,000 years,” Zonfrillo said in a statement. “The First Australians are the true cooks and ‘food inventors’ of these lands and their exclusion from our history, and specifically our food culture, it is unacceptable. I believe the world of gastronomy is committed to making a change and, while we never speak on behalf of indigenous people, we can walk hand in hand and together make positive change on their terms”.
Zonfrillo was chosen from a ten group of highly accomplished finalists from all over the world, including Virgilio Martínez (Peru) and Dieuveil Malonga (Congo/Germany). Joan Roca, Massimo Bottura, Dominique Crenn, Gastón Acurio, and Enrique Olvera all served on the jury for the award, which is sponsored by the Basque Culinary Center in collaboration with the Basque government. Zonfrillo was chosen in a unanimous vote.
“For over than 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. From a perspective focusing on exchange and research, this Scottish chef 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 people into development opportunities, Zonfrillo sows the seeds for a better future,” Roca commented.
The winner was announced this afternoon at the Collegio San Carlo in Modena, where food writer Ruth Reichl also took a moment to honor Jonathan Gold, legendary Los Angeles restaurant critic, who recently died from pancreatic cancer.