The Nobel Prize for Food: winner announced July 11
The Basque country between France and Spain has a proud culinary tradition that has led to the creation in 2011 of the Basque Culinary Center, a university dedicated entirely to food. The Faculty of Gastronomic Sciences at Mondragon University joined with a group of prominent chefs to found the first official university-level training courses in Spain (the Degree in Gastronomy and Culinary Arts), combined with a Research and Innovation Center in the field of food and gastronomy. Master’s degrees are also available in Sommelier Studies, Restaurant Innovation and Management, Avant-Garde Culinary Techniques, and others, making the Basque Culinary Center the world’s most cutting-edge institution dedicated to the gastronomic arts.
It has launched a prize competition that is already being called ‘the Nobel Prize for Food’. It is more than just a prize for the tastiest or most original food; it judges the creators of food in terms of how their work has improved society. A chef will win 100,000 euros for their work in what Judge Heston Blumenthal calls ‘making a difference beyond the kitchen’. A winner will be announced in July 11 this year, decided by an international panel of judges including many top chefs.
This place takes food as seriously as other universities take engineering, science and the arts. Head of the center Prof. Joxe Mari Aizega says that food should be on the same level as anything else and not relegated solely to regional cookery schools, of which Spain already has a high number. ‘We have the standards of a university, the standards of science, but applied to something used by everyone,’ he said, adding ‘The kitchen has proved to be a powerful engine for change.’
Projects competing for the prize include teaching cooking skills in prisons, cooking with sustainable produce (also called “slow food activism”), a program to deliver food prepared by top chefs to the elderly homebound, reducing childhood obesity, and setting up self-help cookery projects in the wake of natural disasters.