MADRID, June 21 — The Basque Culinary World Prize, often described as a Nobel prize for gastronomy, this year honours a Spanish chef with an atypical career path. Based in the Barcelona region, Andrés Torres is a former war reporter who draws on his previous professional experience to respond to urgent humanitarian challenges.

Recently, the career path of chef Bruno Verjus, who went from journalist to gastronomic mastermind, made headlines when his Parisian restaurant Table came third in the ranking of the world’s 50 best gastronomic addresses at the beginning of June.

The case of this self-taught chef is not an isolated one: in Catalonia, a war reporter has also turned his hand to the culinary business. In the Barcelona region, specifically in the Penedès area known for its white wines, chef Andrés Torres is a personality like no other.

He stands out in the culinary world not only because of his past experiences on the battlefield, or his change in career. He’s deeply involved in the causes he cares about and takes the message he learned in the field to heart.

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In his former life, Andrés Torres found meaning by covering armed conflicts for television and radio. The Barcelona native has seen with his own eyes the disasters caused by poverty and hunger, particularly among underprivileged populations in Latin America, Africa and Asia. To help sufferers, and children in particular, Andrés Torres has launched a series of humanitarian initiatives under the banner of the NGO Global Humanitaria. One of his recent projects involves rebuilding a school in Ukraine.

A restaurant dedicated to community

To tackle these major challenges, the ex-war correspondent relies on the flagship project of his second career, his Casa Nova restaurant. Part of the proceeds are used to fund food security, education and children’s rights projects in ten countries, including Ukraine, Syria and Colombia. At this address in Sant Marti Sarroca, Andrés Torres obviously doesn’t serve just any cuisine. Inspired by what his mother taught him, his cooking is based on respect for the food producers and short circuit ingredients to avoid an ungainly ecological footprint.

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Andrés Torres has become a reference in terms of sustainable gastronomy. In concrete terms, his establishment runs on solar energy. In addition, the barrels used to mature the wines are reused to collect rainwater, which is then used to water the vegetable garden in which he grows the vegetables used in his culinary creations. He also produces his own rosemary and lavender honey. Many of these common-sense, sustainable practices were learned from indigenous groups he encountered on his travels. For over 30 years, for example, the Spanish chef has worked closely with communities in Guatemala.

Now that the Basque Culinary Center has named him the recipient of its Basque Culinary World Prize 2024, he will receive an endowment of €100,000 (RM503,760), which he will use to carry out a humanitarian project.

“After over 25 years of undertaking solidarity projects, being awarded what many consider the ‘Nobel of Gastronomy’ reaffirms my belief that persistence and collaboration can indeed drive change. I am convinced that merging culinary expertise with solidarity can significantly impact lives, whether by promoting healthy habits or combating issues like child malnutrition. This award provides a crucial boost to the projects I lead, highlighting the power of our collective efforts,” said the chef following the announcement of his nomination.

Andrés Torres was chosen as winner by a jury comprising representatives of the Basque Culinary Center’s International Committee and some of the world’s most influential chefs. Chaired by chef Joan Roca (Spain — El Celler de Can Roca), it includes other renowned chefs such as Gastón Acurio (Peru), Pía León (Peru), Dominique Crenn (France/USA), Yoshihiro Narisawa (Japan), Manu Buffara (Brazil), Elena Reygadas (Mexico), Trine Hahnemann (Denmark), Thitid Tassanakajohn (Thailand), Josh Niland (Australia), Narda Lepes (Argentina) and Mauro Colagreco (Argentina/France). — ETX Studio