Colombian chef Leonor Espinosa is the winner of the 2017 Basque Culinary World Prize it was announced in Mexico City last night. The prize, now in its second year, is awarded to someone in the industry who is using food to help improve society.
As the chef behind Leo restaurant in Bogotá, which currently sits at number 16 on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and the Funleo foundation, Espinosa has dedicated her career to reviving Colombian culinary traditions, particularly those of indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples, and sees gastronomy as a tool for social and economic development in rural communities and in those ravaged by the drugs trade.
According to the Basque Culinary Center, which organises the prize, Espinosa takes “great pride in the cuisine of her country, as well as nurturing and promoting the value of its biodiversity ... supports rural development based on food sovereignty ... and wants [Colombia’s] communities to take responsibility for transforming their biological, cultural and intangible heritage into tools for socio-economic development.”
Espinosa was chosen from a shortlist of 10 finalists that included big name chefs such as Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi, and José Andrés, alongside the likes of Turkey’s Ebru Baybara, who is providing culinary training for economically vulnerable Turkish and Syrian women, as well as assisting Syrian refugees to assimilate into Turkish culture by educating them about Turkey’s culinary heritage, and former Noma chef Dan Giusti, who is trying to revitalise US school meals.
A panel of top chefs, including Joan Roca, Dominique Crenn, Yoshihiro Narisawa and 2016 Basque Culinary Prize winner María Fernanda Di Giacobbe chose the winner.