Basque Culinary Prize
Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe receieves the Basque Culinary Prize in 2016 Basque Culinary Institute

Nominations for the Basque Culinary World Prize, which styles itself as the Nobel Prize in gastronomy, judged by such food luminaries as Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck in the UK and Dan Barber from the Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan.

The prize, which is awarded by the Basque Culinary Centre in Spain is awarded to chefs who make a positive impact on their society through their cooking. The winner will receive €100,000 (£86,000) to devote to a project of their choice that demonstrates the wider role of gastronomy in society.

Judges said last year's winner Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe, who gave work and opportunities to economically vulnerable women in Venezuala, exemplified the pioneering spirit and social conscience necessary to win the prize.

The nomination period will remain open for two months until Tuesday 2 May 2017. The winner will be announced on Sunday 16 July 2017 at the meeting of the International Committee of the Basque Culinary Center in Mexico City.

In 2016 nominations came from over 30 countries worldwide and 110 different chefs were put forward. The­­­ projects with which they were involved ranged from innovation to education, health, research, sustainability, social entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and the preservation of local cultures.

"The Basque Culinary World Prize is important as it identifies those men and women making a difference 'beyond the kitchen' to create a change through innovation and creativity," Heston Blumenthal said.

"I'm looking forward to celebrating chefs who are striving to improve society through gastronomy. As chefs, we have a responsibility to do more with communities around the world," he added.

Giacobbe said the prize had a transformative effect on her work and the lives of her chocolate makers. "Since we won the prize, our work has taken on a new dimension. We have helped many more women become 'chocolate entrepreneurs'. It has allowed us to set new goals and open up new ways to connect with the world," she said.

Heston Blumenthal's Berkshire restaurant Fat Duck was closed in 2009 following a similar outbreak of the novovirus.
Award-wining chef Heston Blumenthal is one of the judges of the Basque Culinary Prize Reuters