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Australian Chef Wins One Of The World's Most Prestigious Awards For Contributions To Food And Society

Armchair foodies will recognize such culinary stars as Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck and José Andrés. Now it may only be a matter of time they'' becomes aware of a chef from Down Under.

You may not have heard of Jock Zonfrillo, but other movers and shakers in the culinary world are more than familiar with him. And his credibility shot to even greater heights when he won the Basque Culinary World Prize 2018 this month. To chefs around the globe, the award is a huge deal. An international adjudication panel determines the winner not only for prowess in the kitchen, but through the abilities to use those skills to help improve the surrounding community via education, health, research, entrepreneurial aspects and economic development.

Zonfrillo's work and efforts impressed judges from Brazil, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Spain and the USA, who unanimously gave him the title and $131,000 to further develop his community endeavors. It turns out the key to his success was his willingness to collaborate with Australia's indigenous people. That association has not only helped create a unique blend of traditional and modern cuisine prominent in his Adelaide-based restaurant Orana, which proudly credits the influence of Australia's first inhabitants.

“One of the fundamental lessons I’ve learned from working with indigenous communities is to give back more than you take,” said Zonfrillo. “My motivation comes from acknowledging a culture who farmed and thrived from the land they have lived on for over 60,000 years. The First Australians are the true cooks and ‘food inventors’ of these lands and their exclusion from our history, and specifically our food culture, it is unacceptable.”

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Originally from Scotland, Zonfrillo moved to Australia in 2000, where he befriended several people in the Australian community in his quest to get further background on the food ingredients that interested him. In turn, many people in that community worked with Zonfrillo to contribute what they knew about the food to help him create unique dishes.

Hundreds of miles traveling from community to community in Australia's Outback eventually paid off when he finally established Orana, where he showcased the results of that painstaking work. In return, the aboriginal community benefited from an increasing awareness of their food culture, especially when patrons absolutely loved what was on the menu. So popular was the outcome that in 2017, Zonfrillo wound up being chosen Australia's Hottest Chef by The Weekend Australian Magazine.

Jury members were impressed by how Zonfrillo has given a culinary voice to the aboriginal community and his motivation to heighten their profile across the country. Others liked how Zonfrillo has provided economic opportunities for people in that community, thanks to an increasing awareness of their culture, especially in food preparation.

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