Jock Zonfrillo
(Photo: Aaron Gully)Chef Jock Zonfrillo just took home the $100,000+ World Basque Culinary Prize.

This year’s Basque Culinary World Prize was awarded to Scottish-born Australian chef Jock Zonfrillo earlier this week, at a ceremony in Modena, Italy. The chef wins the mission-based prize for his work preserving and celebrating Australian Aboriginal cooking.

A panel of international heavy-hitting chefs including Massimo Bottura, Enrique Olvera and Dominique Crenn chose Zonfrillo out of 10 finalists. He’ll take home more than $100,000 “to devote to a project or institution of his choice that demonstrates the wider role of gastronomy in society,” according to a release. In a statement Zonfrillo said:

“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.”

See below for more statements from the team behind the prize, which started three years ago and has previously been given to María Fernanda Di Giacobbe, who won in 2016 for her Cacao de Origen project in Venezuela, and Colombia’s Leonor Espinosa, who won in 2017 for her Funleo project, a foundation that promotes “Gastronomy for development.”

Bittor Oroz, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Policy in the Basque Government, said:  

“This unique and global award is part of the comprehensive Euskadi – Basque Country Strategy, aspiring to associate the values shared by Basque society, such as the culture of effort, commitment, a ‘can-do’ mentality, a dedication to innovation and competitiveness, and equal opportunities for women and men, with the image of the Basque Country, making it our calling card on an international level. Euskadi must position itself as a global player, earning itself a place on the international stage. The Basque Country’s impact abroad has served to carve out its own space internationally to showcase our identity and values, exploring them further through initiatives like the BCWP as we contribute to the structuring of a new social model that is more just and sustainable, at the service of the individual”

Joan Roca, Chair of the Prize Jury, 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. 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. His work is inspiring and has a multiplier effect. That is why the jury has unanimously chosen him.”

Joxe Mari Aizega, Director General of the Basque Culinary Centre, said: 

“The award strengthens its commitment to a phenomenon that is diverse, pluralistic, and extensive. 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.”