Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe Is Awarded the First Basque Culinary World Prize - Food & Beverage Magazine

Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe Is Awarded the First Basque Culinary World Prize

Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe Is Awarded the First Basque Culinary World Prize

maria-fernanda-di-giacobbe-was-awarded-the-first-basque-culinary-world-prizeThe first Basque Culinary World Prize was formally awarded at a special celebration gala held last night at the San Telmo Museum in San Sebastian.

The prize, which was created to recognize chefs who transform society through gastronomy, is promoted by the Basque Culinary Center and the Basque Government under the framework of the Euskadi-Basque Country Strategy.

In the presence of government ministers, chefs and celebrated figures from the world of gastronomy, the Director of Economic Development for the Basque Government, Arantza Tapia, officially presented Venezuelan chef Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe with the prize. The winning chef was also given 100 thousand euros to be donated to a project that reflects the power of gastronomy to transform lives.maria-fernanda-di-giacobbe-was-awarded-the-first-basque-culinary-world-prize

The prize award also included a tribute to 40 years of new Basque cuisine, celebrating the work of the movement’s pioneers including Juan Mari Arzak, Pedro Subijana, Karlos Arguiñano, José Juan Castillo, Fombellida, Ramón Roteta and Patxiku Quintana.

A judging panel, led by Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca (Spain) and made up of some of the most important chefs in the world, chose Di Giacobbe from amongst 20 finalists because of the network of education, training, entrepreneurship, research, and development that she has developed around the cocoa bean in Venezuela. She has transformed it into a source of identity, culture, and financial stability, giving opportunities to women in economically vulnerable positions by empowering and training them, turning them into chocolate micro-entrepreneurs.maria-fernanda-di-giacobbe-was-awarded-the-first-basque-culinary-world-prize-presentation

During the ceremony Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe said:

“This award will allow us to fast forward the establishment of the Cacao de Origen Emprendedores School in Caracas.  The prize is a tribute to the energy of thousands of women who have created a countrywide network of education and have been given back our dignity, identity, and culture by means of the chocolate trade. We continue to be inspired, happy and thankful”

The winner was decided by the Chefs of the Basque Culinary Center’s International Council, including Ferran Adrià (Spain), Dominique Crenn (United States), Heston Blumenthal (United Kingdom), Massimo Bottura (Italy), Yoshihiro Narisawa (Japan), and Enrique Olvera (Mexico). Other judges included the American researcher Harold McGee, the food history specialist Massimo Montanari, the Mexican writer Laura Esquivel, and Cristina Franchini – an expert in international law and humanitarian aid and part of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).maria-fernanda-di-giacobbe-was-awarded-the-first-basque-culinary-world-prize-award

Arantza Tapia, Minister of Economic Development and Competitiveness of the Basque Government, said:

“This prize is framed within the Basque Country Comprehensive Strategy. This is a regional strategy that, drawing on Basque strengths and individuality, allows the Basque Country to be a global player, an example of excellence, and a model for quality of life and social cohesiveness as an innovative, competitive region. The aim of this strategy is for the values shared by the Basque community (such as a culture of effort, commitment, the ability to overcome, a will to transform, and equal opportunities for men and women) to become ingrained in the image of the Basque Country and to act as our ‘business card’ on an international scale.”

Vicente Atxa, Chancellor of the Mondragón University and President of the Board of Trustees at the Basque Culinary Center said:

“The Basque Culinary World Prize recognizes concrete actions and projects, regardless of the reputation or celebrity of the chef. The proof of this is that Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe was considered to be aworthy winner of the prize, who can bring the transforming impact of gastronomy to the lives of many, and to inspire many more.  This is testimony to the sense of social responsibility that is now part of being a chef in these times”

Joxe Mari Aizega, Director of the Basque Culinary Center, said:

 “Since the birth of new Basque cuisine forty years ago, this country has not stopped raising the bar and inspiring. Today, once again, the bar is being raised with the Basque Culinary World Prize.”  

The Basque Culinary World Prize was launched in February 2016 to celebrate the positive impact that gastronomy can have on society through the work of entrepreneurial and tenacious men and women.

More than 110 candidates from approximately 30 countries were nominated for the Basque Culinary World Prize between February and April via the Award’s website. A prize committee led by chef Elena Arzak of the Arzak Restaurant and made up of academics from different universities chose the 20 finalists from whom the panel of judges ultimately picked a winner.

The Basque Culinary World Prize also celebrates those pioneers who have contributed to the positive social impact of gastronomy including Alice Waters and Dan Barber in the United States, Claus Mayer and René Redzepi in Denmark, Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal in the United Kingdom, Gastón Acurio in Peru, and Massimo Bottura in Italy.

The twenty finalists were:

Alberto Crisci (United Kingdom), Alicia Gironella (Mexico), Ángel León (Spain), Ann Cooper (USA), Carlos Zamora (Spain), Daniel Boulud (France/USA), David Hertz (Brazil), Gabriel Garza (Mexico), Jessamyn Rodriguez (Canada/USA), José Andrés (Spain/USA), Joshna Maharaj (South Africa/Canada), Leonor Espinosa (Colombia), Manoela Buffara (Brazil), Margot Janse (Holland), Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe (Venezuela), Massimiliano Alajmo (Italy), Nani Moré (Spain), Rodolfo Guzmán, (Chile), Teresa Corçao (Brazil). Additionally, Kamilla Seidler (Denmark) and Michelangelo Cestari (Venezuela) were included in one single nomination for their combined efforts in Bolivia.

Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe has worked for more than ten years to provide opportunities for women in situations of financial vulnerability, training them and making them micro-entrepreneurs in the chocolate sector (around 700 women now own active microbusinesses thanks to her efforts). Through her chocolate workshops, she has trained approximately 8,500 individuals throughout Venezuela. She has contributed to the graduation of approximately 1,500 individuals in the ´Management of the Cocoa Bean Industry´ through the degree programme from the Simón Bolivar University (94% of the students are women). Approximately 18 cocoa communities and 60 producers have joined her “Cacao de Origen” Project. This project helps to improve the production, fermentation, and commercialization processes. Likewise, she has helped to strengthen the “Bean to Bar” Movement.

The economic contribution will benefit “Cacao de Origen Emprendedores” (“Cocoa beans of Entrepreneur Origin”), an educational project led by Di Giacobbe, which focuses on the cocoa bean and chocolate as a means for social change. The project proposes the exchange of knowledge and professional training to bring about business structures that work for people, families, and the community in terms of managing their own business endeavors – helping them to become successful.

The award is promoted by the Basque Culinary Center (BCC), a pioneering international academic institution which is dedicated to gastronomic research and promoted by the Basque Government within the framework of the Euskadi-Basque Country Strategy, which has the support and participation of all Basque institutions and strives for the values shared by the Basque community (such as a culture of effort, commitment, the ability to overcome, a will to transform, and equal opportunities for men and women) to become ingrained in the image of the Basque Country.

For more information on the finalists and the prize, visit

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