Gastronomy as a Catalyst for Change
Special award winners seek to change the world, one plate at a time.
As the hospitality industry continues to evolve in the wake of the pandemic, three special awards were granted during the Grand Finale of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition 2019-21 in Milan (28-30 October).
These additional awards — the S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility, the Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy, and the Fine Dining Lovers Food for Thought Award — reflect the Academy’s mission to raise awareness of sustainable practices and representation in global gastronomy, as well as the transformative power of food to overcome cultural barriers and forge meaningful connections.
This year’s special award winners were recognised for their unique talent to use gastronomy as a catalyst for social and environmental change.
S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility
Chef Callan Austin from the Africa & Middle East region was named the winner with his signature dish The Ghost Net, which embodied the principle that food is best when it’s the result of socially-responsible practices.
Voted for by Food Made Good, The Ghost Net features fish that Austin caught himself, highlighting the importance of sustainable fishing practices and the need to protect marine and coastal ecosystems.
“My dish is all about telling a story,” he said. “Nowadays chefs are considered rock stars, so why not use that power of influence to tell an important story, like what I did with The Ghost Net? I highlighted something that the public may not have been aware of and now they know, it can be a talking point.”
He added, “[This competition] has given me the tools to take the award back to my country and really push a revolution about sustainability in South Africa,” he said. “I’m going to encourage young chefs in South Africa to apply and compete because it seems like it can really change your life.”
Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy
Chef Elissa Abou Tasse from the Africa & Middle East region was named the winner with her signature dish, Adam's Garden.
Recognised for her ability to connect different cultures on a plate, Abou Tasse said the award was not only a personal achievement, but a win for both female chefs and her beloved Lebanese cuisine.
“It’s really big to win this [award] in the middle of hard times of economic and political crisis in our region. This is huge for the Lebanese people and Lebanese gastronomy… it’s time to move Lebanese gastronomy to the next level,” she said.
Highlighting humble ingredients and traditional cooking methods, Adam's Garden traces the cultural history of the Levant region.
“I wanted to express the cultural struggles of the past, the history that was created, and the joy and memories,” Abou Tasse said.
Fine Dining Lovers Food for Thought Award
From the Iberian & Mediterranean region, chef Andrea Ravasio was declared the winner by Fine Dining Lovers readers for his dish, El Domingo del Campesino, which celebrated the local produce of the Canary Islands.
“There is a story behind this dish because I want to teach people about Canarian gastronomy — the earth, the volcanos, the meat — every element about this very poor gastronomy, [and prove that] each chef can use poor products to make a fine-dining dish,” he said.
Ravasio described the win as “a dream” and plans to utilise the connections he made during the three-day Grand Finale to push his culinary storytelling further.
“I want to cook with some of these guys around the world. We’ve started a friendship and maybe we can change [perspectives] with the different products of our land,” he said.