Scottish chef Jock Zonfrillo has been awarded the 2018 Basque Culinary World Prize for his work safeguarding Aboriginal culinary traditions.
Zonfrillo was announced the winner at Collegio San Carlo in Modena, Italy, earlier this afternoon. Since making Australia his home in 2000, Zonfrillo has visited hundreds of remote communities to understand the origins of ingredients and their cultural significance. He has given them a platform on the menus of his Orana restaurant based in Adelaide and has brought Aboriginal cultural traditions to wider audiences through programmes such as the Nomad Chef.
He will be awarded €100,000 (£89,000) to devote to a project or institution of his choice that demonstrates the wider role of gastronomy in society.
Zonfrillo said: "I would like to give a huge thank you to all my restaurant staff, all the Orana Foundation staff, researchers and advisers, and, most importantly, to all the indigenous Australians who have given their time over the years to share their knowledge.
"One of the fundamental lessons I've learned from working with indigenous communities is to give back more than you take. My motivation comes from acknowledging a culture who farmed and thrived from the land they have lived on for over 60,000 years.
"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 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."
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). The award recognises chefs who are improving society through gastronomy, in areas ranging from innovation to education, health, research, sustainability, social entrepreneurship and economic development.
The prize jury was chaired by El Celler de Can Roca's Joan Roca (Spain) and included chefs such as Massimo Bottura, Yoshihiro Narisawa and Leonor Espinosa, winner of the Basque Culinary World Prize 2017, together with experts in other disciplines such as British food historian Bee Wilson and interior designer Ilse Crawford.
Joan Roca said: "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… 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."
Joxe Mari Aizega, director general of the Basque Culinary Centre, said: "Chefs and cooks around the world demonstrate the value that gastronomy brings in terms of its eye towards creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation, and commitment that is aligned with the challenges of our society. For this reason, today we are pleased to celebrate Jock Zonfrillo being selected, standing as testimony not just to inspiration, but also as a multiplier effect."
Photo credit: Jacqui Way