Basque Culinary Center
The Basque Culinary Center may be new to the world of gastronomic schools, but it became the first university-level culinary training programs in the entirety of Spain. In another first, this year the Culinary Center announced an annual Basque Culinary World Prize, selected by a panel of world-famous chefs and entrepreneurs and awarded to an individual “whose projects have improved society through gastronomy.” The prize for the inaugural year was just awarded to María Fernanda Di Giacobbe, a Venezuelan chocolatier paving the way for female entrepreneurs in similar fields.
Di Giacobbe was chosen as a social activist and proponent of education and research through programs like Cacao de Origen, a Venezuelan nonprofit that aims to preserve and promote the culture of cocoa farming and chocolate production in South America.
“From now our work will take on a new dimension,” Di Giacobbe said after receiving the award. “We will bring the transforming power of trade to many more women ‘chocolate entrepreneurs’. This award is a reflection of hundreds of entrepreneurs, producers and chocolatiers and their learning, enthusiasm and hard work. It allows us to set new goals and open up new ways to connect with the world. We in Venezuela are tremendously grateful that the Basque Culinary Prize has placed this trust in us.”
The winner was chosen from a final top 20 by a panel of the world’s most respected names in gastronomy, including Ferran Adrià (Spain), Heston Blumenthal (UK), Massimo Bottura (Italy), and Dominique Crenn (France).
“Today's recipient of the Basque Culinary World Prize reflects how gastronomy can take a leap from craft to consciousness,” Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca), chair of the prize jury said. “Maria Fernanda uses Cacao as a gastronomic symbol that has a positive impact on the entire food chain. This is an inspiring project that exemplifies the great reach of gastronomy. Chefs can make a difference.”