A view from BCC

Introduction

Gastronomy today is a multidimensional phenomenon. There is no aspect of reality – economic, social, cultural, or even political – that does not intersect with our food in some way. It is at this intersection that the Basque Culinary Center (BCC) comes into play, as it uniquely embodies the scope, complexity and wealth of gastronomy. Nowadays, gastronomy is a heavily loaded concept wherein values, visions and actions coalesce around a central axis that is as nourishing as it is stimulating.

It is vital for our team to fully assimilate what happens in our sector, not only to absorb and take part in our surrounding environment, but also to propose innovative initiatives aligned with present-day demands and the challenges and opportunities ahead.

We are determined to connect with developments in every arena. We understand that it is our duty to accompany gastronomy’s unfolding path, promote it from an interdisciplinary perspective, and delve deeper.

Nine years ago, a group of Basque chefs and Mondragón University created the Basque Culinary Center Foundation with support from public institutions and the goal of establishing a pioneering center for higher education to offer the kind of professional training the gastronomy sector demanded and deserved. With the objective of consolidating an increasingly skilled, responsible and dedicated guild, the Faculty of Gastronomic Sciences and the Research and Innovation Center were founded.

Since our founding, our driving motivation has been to train versatile professionals capable of immersing themselves in the movement of gastronomy and succeeding in any culinary field. At present, our Faculty of Gastronomic Sciences welcomes students from 32 countries. Every year, a total of about 600 students enroll in our Degree in Gastronomy and Culinary Arts or one of our eight Master’s degree programs. In addition, another 2,000 students complete short-term courses that we continuously design for both professionals and enthusiasts.

Our Technology Center, on the other hand, focuses on research and innovation for product and service design in collaboration with a diverse range of companies. We organize and host around 100 events every year at our facilities. Our initiative “Culinary Action!” encourages and supports entrepreneurship and new businesses. Furthermore, we also promote, in conjunction with the Basque regional government, initiatives such as the Basque Culinary World Prize.

Four years ago, after intense internal reflection based on our past experiences, we realized that our mission should focus on developing the economic and social potential of gastronomy, which involves taking on the challenge of endowing this word – gastronomy – with meaning that, while reflecting the current reality, does not refer exclusively to cuisine. Until not long ago, when the topic of gastronomy came up, it was primarily associated with haute cuisine. This association, however, has changed. The concept of gastronomy has expanded by leaps and bounds and has also been democratized.

The BCC was fortunate to foresee the exponential potential of gastronomy in a rapidly evolving landscape. Furthermore and most importantly, the BCC has taken this vision to heart in its activities and become an active agent for and promoter of this new way of understanding and living gastronomy.

A truly tangible example of this is the Basque Culinary World Prize, which was created in conjunction with the Basque regional government. This award is bestowed upon chefs with transformative initiatives to celebrate how chefs from around the world use their unique knowledge, leadership, entrepreneurial skills and creativity to effect change in areas such as health, education, the environment, economic development, innovation, industry or even humanitarian action and public policy.

Since the launch of this award in 2016, it has been inspiring to discover hundreds of hard-working entrepreneur-chefs focused on excellence. These are innovative and creative people who go against the grain. They are tenacious or even reckless but, above all, they are committed to effecting positive change in their environment.

In addition, another key factor for the BCC has been viewing gastronomy as a strategic sector. Gastronomy contributes economically and socially to an entire value chain, and can serve as a springboard for the promotion of cultures and, therefore, of countries as well.

In this sense, gastronomy is a country-brand. It adds value to products from a certain place and to the products’ transformation as well. It encompasses all actors from the hotel and restaurant industry and activates tourism. All this explains why more and more countries are conscientiously investing in gastronomy: they understand the power of gastronomy to attract visitors interested in experiences that only gastronomy can offer in such special ways.

Gastronomy is also part of cultural and creative industries. In the gastronomy sector, innovative chefs and entrepreneurs spark trends and change what we eat and how we eat it. A sector of such dimensions and vitality needs entities dedicated to research, training, dissemination and innovation. In other economic and professional sectors, such institutions already exist. In gastronomy, however, they are few and far between.

The BCC is able to tackle this challenge thanks the key contributions of many people, including the members of our Board of Trustees, which consists of public institutions, private businesses, universities, technological centers, and a group of inspired Basque chefs. These chefs are leaders in their profession who have demonstrated what it means to innovate a country’s culinary tradition through cooperative work. Likewise, the chefs who comprise our International Council have also managed to transform the cultures, images and gastronomic landscapes of their countries and regions. The work of the Basque Culinary Center is made possible by an entire community of passionate and dedicated people who demonstrate everyday what excellence and authenticity can offer.

Thanks to the dedication of all these collaborators, the Basque Culinary Center takes on its mission with a strong sense of responsibility, realizing that it is our duty to educate future generations according to our vision and the values inherent to it.

Thus, we embark on a project titled “50 Glimpses” that aspires to use original content to connect the multidimensional worlds within gastronomy, and empower them and instill them with movement – even more movement.

Working with the talented people at the Basque Culinary Center has been extremely stimulating for this story. BCC students, professors and close collaborators accompanied the curators of this project in a creative and interdisciplinary initiative. It is our hope that whoever reads this text or visits the exhibition finds the experience as fascinating as it has been for us.

50 Glimpses also aims to experiment with language and with how to make gastronomy more accessible to audiences who are inexperienced in this field. Such an audience boasts a wealth of curiosity, love, and love for gastronomy. That is why we are committed to making 50 Glimpses an extremely diverse exhibition in terms of format. It does not avoid controversy, as our intention is to inspire our audiences to ask questions, rather than provide polished unambiguous answers.

In the process of creating 50 Glimpses, our first task was to closely examine gastronomy. We asked ourselves: When is our starting point? What should our perspective be? We believed it was necessary to analyze these questions based on a holistic and comprehensive approach. However, it also seemed natural to begin with our roots.

Basque cuisine is one of the most renowned culinary traditions in the world. Its fame extends beyond the professional gastronomy sector to include social arenas and also crosses other borders. Many people are surprised by the fact that a region with a population of just two million has achieved such significant international culinary recognition. Anyone who visits the Basque Country will discover a people who experience cooking and food with great intensity; a land where Michelin-starred restaurants exemplify innovation and excellence, and the most traditional or classic restaurants stand out for their top-quality products; gastronomic societies use cooking to revere raw materials and gather around the table for the ultimate communal experience; pintxos bars offer exciting miniature cuisine in a relaxed fun atmosphere; and family cooks shine in their home kitchens as they combine flavors with skill and ease, guided by seasoned heritage.

The New Basque Cuisine reinvigorates the ongoing development of traditional and modern Basque cuisine. An outstanding and like-minded group of chefs, led by Juan Mari Arzak and Pedro Subijana, were joined by countless others and made the emergence of a new generation of chefs possible: Hilario Arbelaitz, Martín Berasategui, Andoni Luis Aduriz, Eneko Atxa, Elena Arzak, and more. Together, these chefs formed a collective movement and transformed Basque cuisine into a point of reference for modern gastronomy and creative regions as well.

Therefore, we consider the New Basque Cuisine to be a milestone, and a starting point for research and reflection. Let us not forget the values that have characterized the emergence and evolution of Basque cuisine: identity, a sense of belonging, personality, character, courage, creativity, cooperation, sensitivity, innovation, dedication, an interdisciplinary nature, and so on.

50 Glances weaves together contributions made by chefs from our Board of Trustees and International Council. We would like to convey our gratitude for the inspiration and dedication they have so generously shared with us.

Dinner is served and gastronomy is everywhere.

Joxe Mari Aizega

Director of the Basque Culinary Center