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Words by Redazione Cook_inc.

Photos by David Yorath (Apollo PR)

Known for his dedicated work with native Australian communities and ingredients, as well as for his culinary talent – brilliantly showcased, for example, in his Orana restaurant in Adelaide – Scottish chef Jock Zonfrillo was awarded the Basque Culinary World Prize on November 22nd for the positive impact his project has had. The prize gala saw him victorious against nine other finalists, all of whom were shortlisted for their commitment to transform the world through gastronomy. Having been selected by a prestigious jury, headed by Spanish chef Joan Roca and further consisting of some of the world’s most influential chefs, Zonfrillo was given the prize money of €100.000 to continue his work with the self-founded Orana Foundation, databasing native Australian ingredients.

During his Australian adventure, Zonfrillo spent more than seventeen years dedicating his life to the discovery and defence of aborigine culture, visiting hundreds of native communities, learning about their ingredients and traditional food. Having researched these products and given a voice to the communities and their knowledge, he opened Orana restaurant to quite literally welcome – this being the English translation of the word Orana – every element of Australia’s cuisine. While the food variety, history and nutritional properties of indigenous ingredients are honoured in the restaurant’s menu, the regularly missing respect towards Aborigines and their general exclusion from the national culinary identity in the country brought Zonfrillo to launch the Orana Foundation in 2016 with the goal of “giving back more than you take.”

He saw his task in assisting indigenous communities by supporting them in researching, documenting, commercialising and promoting their native foods, as well as training them in skills like growing, cultivating and harvesting these ingredients in order to minder their social and economic disadvantage. Considering traditional Australian food as a way of understanding and appreciating all aspects of Australian culture, one of Zonfrillo’s main objectives was the documentation of native ingredients and the investigation of their uses, which he started last year with the help of a multidisciplinary research team. It is this endeavour, that he also wants part of the prize money to go towards, enabling him to extend his database to 15.000 native ingredients over the next couple of years: “100% of the prize money is being invested into Indigenous community projects that will see a long term and sustainable impact on their community and financial security and make positive change on their terms”, Zonfrillo said, naming a community packing shed and the farming of freshwater prawns as examples.

Expressing his pride and honour at having been chosen as the winner of the Basque Culinary World Prize, he describes the award as an “instrumental part of the wave of change” in his acceptance speech, indicating the efforts of the Basque Culinary Centre and the Basque Government, who have held the prize since 2016. Striving to look beyond the culinary qualities of gastronomic professionals and honouring instead the positive impact chefs can have in fields such as culinary innovation, health, nutrition, education or the environment, the Basque Culinary World Prize, like Jock Zonfrillo, aims to transform the world through gastronomy.