A chef-led revolution redefining delicious for wellbeing and sustainability: local and seasonal food, preventive health and food engagement
Lead Applicant Organization Name
BCCInnovation (BCCI) of Basque Culinary Center (BCC)
Lead Applicant Organization Type
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
Basque Culinary Center (BCC) collaborates with international organisations, as well as the local administration in multi stakeholder projects. We develop innovation projects with the private sector and participate in strategic conversations regarding the transformative potential of food & gastronomy in society.
Public administration: Basque Gvt - Council of Gipuzkoa - City of Donostia - Osakidetza healthcare system - HAZI
Private sector: Nestlé HS - Ibermática - Eroski - Siemens - Fagor Ind - GenMills - ISEA - Ausolan
R&D centers & Univ: Copenhagen U - UC Davis - AZTI - Tecnalia - U. de Navarra - Tufts U - UCLA - NEIKER - Leartiker - Mondragon U - CITA - GAIKER - Harvard - MIT - Turku U
Restaurants and chefs: Joan Roca - Ferrán Adrià - René Redzepi - Alex Atala - Dan Barber - Dominique Crenn - Mugaritz - Gustu, among many others
Intl organisations: EITFood - IDEO - Google Food Lab
We conceptualized and manage a Living Lab for citizenship co-creation and experimentation: LABe
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Donostia - San Sebastián
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Gipuzkoa, a province in the autonomous region of Euskadi (Basque Country), in coastal Northern Spain, that covers an area of 1,980 km²
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
The Basque Culinary Center (BCC) was founded in 2009 in San Sebastian by the Mondragon group, the Basque Government, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and 7 world renowned Basque chefs. BCCinnovation is the interdisciplinary R&D center at BCC, which works in 3 areas: 1) Gastronomy research in health and omics sciences, sustainability and sensory sciences, 2) culinary innovation, and 3) entrepreneurship. We develop community-focused projects that facilitate our vision, such as LABe: a full gastronomic ecosystem to co-create, experiment and drive the future. It is a living lab, hub for startups and businesses, and an environment for multidisciplinary collaboration in the food system. Other highlights are health interventions involving chefs that empower patients to cook healthy and delicious food, new product development to fit the taste of our aging population, or upcycling food by-products to have gastronomic value.
Gipuzkoa, the province where BCC is sited, belongs to the autonomous community of Basque Country. Its political and financial autonomy, as well as certain legislative and executive powers allow the territory to implement policies faster. It is also a privileged region as it is internationally acclaimed in the culinary world, and the establishment of BCC as the first faculty and research center in gastronomy of the word, reassured this leadership. Many aspiring chefs and professionals look at us as a model and come to restaurants in San Sebastian, and specifically to the BCC, to learn from our chefs and experts. Taking into account the transformative potential within this framework, we want to continue Gipuzkoa’s established history as leaders in technical and social innovation by serving as a global example for a healthier, more sustainable future. We chose Gipuzkoa not only because the food system here supports our existence as an institution, but also because the region is an advanced starting point to test what a preferable future might look like
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Gipuzkoa overview by the Board of Tourism
Gipuzkoa is an innovative urban territory with a strong connection to the rural and natural environment. The mountainous landscape, stormy seas, and modern valleys, elicit a great sense of pride for all that is Basque, and that value is certainly extended to cooking. Euskera is our ancient language, used concurrently with Spanish in public life, government and education. San Sebastian is the relatively small capital city of Gipuzkoa, where over half its population lives, yet it is the second most densely populated municipality in Spain. Here you find not only Basques and a growing immigrant population but also over 300,000 monthly international tourists coming to surf or enjoy the quality of its culinary delights.
The Basque Country, coined the Culinary Nation, is a privileged territory with regards to gastronomy and flavor. Tourists and Basques both enjoy poteo (bar hopping), eating pintxos displayed on the counters of restaurants washed down with bright txakoli from the coast and cider from the Baserris (Basque rural houses), yet recently it feels like quality could be sacrificed for quantity. Classic recipes will be found in culinary clubs called Txokos that have communal kitchens where Basques cook, eat, drink, celebrate and enjoy time with family and friends. Prestigious chefs of Nueva Cocina Vasca enjoy international fame. Arzak, Subijana and Berasategui, three Michelin star chefs, interpret modern cuisine into one uniquely Basque, recreating tradition.
The Cantabrian sea off the coast is known for its broad diversity of seafood. Albeit the sea is fruitful, aquaculture in Gipuzkoa is underdeveloped due to strong currents. Fish markets filled with fresh fish are evidence of the Basque’s affinity with seafood and the storied maritime history of sailors navigating around the world. Anchovies and sardines are carefully filleted to be marinated in wine vinegar or floured and fried. Kokotxas and Mendreska are cuts of fish prized for their rich gelatinous texture. The small fleet of Basque fishing boats make for one of Spain’s largest fishing regions - an industry vital to coastal towns.
Driving into the stunning mountains of Gipuzkoa, one finds hidden valleys with multiple industrial facilities along sheep dotting the pastures, few orchards. While culturally important, little clarity exists on where food comes from. Looking up at the pastures in question it becomes clear that most comes from outside Gipuzkoa. Once a poor rural society, farms have been abandoned and now Basque society is one of the wealthiest and most high-tech in Spain.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Build capacity along sectors of the food system
In 2020, our food system dependency on imports makes it vulnerable to disruptions from abroad. While growth in tourism has propelled hospitality to the largest employment sector in Gipuzkoa, it doesn’t create propositional value especially do to the lack of quality employment (130% overtime). To build capacity, 3% GDP is invested in R&D, above that of France, but innovation doesn’t transfer fast enough to impact positively the food system.
By 2050, climate change will cause a dramatic decrease of agricultural yields in most Spain, pushing Gipuzkoa to find new food suppliers to ensure food security. Hospitality sector will face challenges as over 60% of the population will be seniors.
Attending consumers demand for local and sustainable food
18% of the food grown in Gipuzkoa is never harvested, and food waste in homes and restaurants is alarming (125k tons a year). There is an existing appreciation for local food, but Gipuzkoa orography is adverse for large scale farming. The sector remains low-tech and access to local produce is difficult.
By 2050, traditional farm owners would have abandoned their sites and less local food will be available; as 80% of farmers will be over 85 and profits are slim.
Increase engagement with the food system for healthy & sustainable diets
According to research and workshops with local stakeholders, consumers don’t have sufficient information on food provenance and practices. Only 1% of the meat we eat is local and our food spending is 47% on processed food.
Data frames a trend, a way of eating that is consuming our food culture: impulsively, with sides and drinks loaded with sugar; too cheap, imported meat that was not bred with environmental or animal respect; that contributes minimally to local economies or personal health. The challenge is to connect conscious consumers with valuable data and experiences that reconnects them to the food system.
Even in Gipuzkoa, by 2050, adult population will face unique challenges as they will be the first cohort of obesity patients since childhood, highly dependant on processed foods due to lack of culinary skills.
Preempt and minimize risk of illness, aging healthy
Gipuzkoa has a high proportion of over 65s (22%), and incidence of malnutrition and obesity in children and adults is growing (53% of overweight and obese). Both are causing enormous public health spending. Significant rates of depression and anxiety (13%) are also a cause of concern.
By 2050, public spending on healthcare will be unaffordable, due to predominance of retired population, projected to be 72%.
Integrate immigrants and isolated locals, in harmony with growing tourism
We are witnessing a steady growth of immigration and tourism at unprecedented rates. By 2050, if we succeed in attracting needed foreign workers, we need to foster successful integration between locals and new arrivals or risk creating isolated communities. In addition, tourism is expected to double by 2050, potentially crowding out locals in a region where nearly 50% of the population would be tourists.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Personalized Gastronomy is a chef-led revolution based on local food, preventive health and food engagement. It’s about a cultural shift, where people’s engagement to all that interacts with the food on our plate is just as important as what’s on it.
Keys to this shift are 1) striving towards wellbeing, which includes physical but also mental health as well as culture, community, and empowerment; 2) achieving diets based on local, seasonal food; and 3) adjusting the meaning of deliciousness to align with health and sustainability.
Some key elements to broaden economic value generation of the food system will be New txokos (urban communal nodes of food production, cooking and food sharing) that will supply a % of the food, growth in the production sector will supply another %; reducing total dependency on imports. Easy access to test spaces for food innovation with citizens as testers, hospitality workers included, will lead to development of new technologies to improve hospitality and other sectors working conditions.
Increased economic value of the food system will create shifts in its social value as signifier, thus generating citizen food engagement. The chef will play a key role, reinforcing public awareness, citizen empowerment and palate reeducation towards health and sustainability, reinventing our food industry to meet consumer demand. Cultural widening of what’s edible (heirloom and wild varieties, as well as circular design in our processes, less known fish and seaweed), precision agriculture (omics included), and a projected favorable weather for agriculture (increase of heat and precipitation) will provide new local foods for the exigent consumer demand. The new chef’s role will be achieved through multidisciplinary collaboration, creativity and communication. New txokos and school programs are also responsible for strengthening food engagement.
As the new system promotes food engagement, health awareness will arise in the population. While the causes of fragility in aging and chronic diseases are multifactorial, efficient models of preventive health will ensure a high quality of life in a future enlarged elderly population that suffered from childhood obesity. Diners will be empowered to be proactive towards their wellbeing with tools such as the Food Passport (IDs for food personalization), as well as specific policies to nudge towards healthy foods and new gastronomic experiences based on your personal taste.
Food and gastronomy will be at the center of integration and cultural resilience strategies. New Txokos will be the centerpiece of intergenerational, intercultural spaces where citizens generate value with work, knowledge transfer or open innovation. Tax incentives to join and more flexibility in the workplace make them viable. Txokos will continue to play a prominent role in the future, keeping and evolving through creativity Basque gastronomic heritage, for both dynamizing tourism and strengthening the sense of belonging.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
By 2050, Gipuzkoa food system is healthy, sustainable and delicious, for all citizens, fostering cultural resilience while including diversity.
Citizens become empowered along the food system to make choices that positively impact their wellbeing. These choices are not difficult, as the system is designed to create spaces and time for citizen food engagement, and in turn, citizens now place social value in good food. People feel it’s fair to pay more for food that champions regenerative agricultural practices, ancient wisdom and personalized food.
Key elements to this change have been the chefs, as guides to the food system, and new txokos, as tools for open innovation but also social integration, increasing connection and sense of belonging.
Gipuzkoa citizens are found daily in new txokos, spaces for wellbeing, food creativity and engagement. Local ingredients are only consumed in peak flavor and nutrition. People cook on site or at home the food grown in the txoko. School programs about food happen in txokos. The latest technologies applied to the food system are tested in everyday tasks, like drone harvesting in hard to access mountains kilometers away to easing working seniors with lightweight exoskeletons. This is a result of a dynamic collaboration between SMEs, R&D centers, start-ups and chefs, that has positioned Gipuzkoa as a Gastronomy Innovation hotspot.
Chefs have continued to have social prominence helping citizens experience new foods in delicious ways, keeping food an exciting space in society. Their most impactful contributions are widening the social concept of what is edible (from carrot tops, to cider lees, ancient encartada beans or osmundeas, a local seaweed delicacy) and exposing citizens to the benefits of the Food Passport (an accurate profile of yourself, based on DNA, gut microbiota and cognitive food choice models that pinpoint what makes you like some foods and dislike others).
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Personalized Gastrnomy is based in 3 pillars: wellbeing, local food and deliciousness. Each pillar is enabled by transformational lines of action (yellow, blue and green circles). Each line of action has drivers, and each driver generates impacts (see red arrows). Grey star icons are current BCCI work, black stars are future innovations based on our work. Large arrows are systemic impacts and red texts are tensions in the system.
It’s 2050, Gipuzkoa is the international example of the Personalized Gastronomy movement. People participate in a food system that is healthy, sustainable, and delicious. Tourists come from all over the world to visit the beauty of the city and view the cultural shifts occurred over the last decades. Visiting San Sebastian is unique.
Early February, there are 2 varieties of apples in the fruit market of a Txoko. One small bumpy green variety, is bright, sour, with grassy notes. At first bite, the apple’s skin just breaks. A sourness quenches your palate. The sensation is almost overwhelming before a refreshing burst of sweetness balances the acidity. The experience is familiar yet completely strange. As you eat the apple you are conscious of the whole experience. Food’s deliciousness encourages mindful eating.
Omics technology determined this apple to be at the peak of ripeness for the next 48 hours. The tree is from a historic apple seed saved at the seed bank. It was bred more for flavor and nutrient quality than yield. This variety of apple stays in the market for 4 days, then what hasn’t been sold is turned into cider in the traditional way by Txoko members. This specific cider has won prizes for its quality and competes with the best wines in the world, all Basque ciders do. Once our bumpy green apple vacates the shelves, another variety takes its place - this apple has just reached peak ripeness too. Today there are over 70 varieties of apples cultivated in Gipuzkoa. Omics technology is readily accessible to interested farmers to determine peak deliciousness - when flavor and nutrients are best. Omics analysis is used in more than 50 cultivars and is expanding fast. Peppers, brassicas, leeks, and lettuces are all delicious, and people have noticed - the sector has grown spectacularly, and people eat fresh vegetables every day.
Rarely do people eat animal meat in Gipuzkoa. Usually reserved for holidays and special occasions because of its high cost, which mainly covers fair prices for farmers. Because of the lower demand on meat products, animal welfare has increased and farmers don’t rush in production and animals spend a long time on the fields. New taxes on both climate impact and high-fats and sugars-foods, have increased the costs significantly and discouraged overall consumption. Processed foods are made in local factories with local ingredients. As a consequence, demand has sprung for Personalized Gastronomy, spending up to 35% of their budget on food.
When one first arrives in San Sebastian, it’s hard to resist being tested for your Food Passport. The process is rather elaborate: go to a Txoko with an appointment and the process begins. First is an informal face to face interview about your food preferences. Images of food are flashed across a screen and an AI camera records your facial expressions. Next, a saliva sample is collected to sequence your DNA. You are then served a meal of local products while wearing an EEG-helmet. The activity in your brain is monitored as you eat. Finally, a stool sample is collected to analyze your gut microbiota. Within a couple of hours, you receive your new Food Passport, which looks no different than an ID card, synchronized seamlessly with all wearables you may have. The Food Passport is the crystallization of decades of research in the fields that lead to Personalized Gastronomy, especially the creation of specific profiles based on omics sciences (to understand at a molecular level how food can most benefit the individual) and cognitive food choice models.
Walking into restaurants with your food passport in San Sebastian is a unique experience. Scan it and chefs will know your profile. AI helps the chef modify your menu to fit your emotional and nutritional needs. Are you tired (need coffee?), sick (immune-boosting foods?), or excited (perhaps champagne to celebrate?). Chefs know you like your best friend -she knows exactly what sort of food you want when you walk in the door.
New Txokos are a symbol of our food system, strategically located throughout Gipuzkoa. The centers are dynamic spaces of Basque society. On one end, Txokos have farmers and fishermen teaching classes about local seasonality of both land and sea. Climate suitability makes these products the most sustainable and delicious. In txokos you will also find new ingredients that used to be waste, such as cider lees being transformed into aromatic breads or scrumptious desserts.
In the txoko, you scan your food passport and AI cameras analyze your health status. How much did you sleep last night? When did you eat last? Did you exercise? Your wearables give this information to the system to create a painting of you. The system provides menu and ingredient recommendations. Machine learning and a molecular understanding of the functionality of food suggest that you should probably have the potatoes seasoned with paprika instead of thyme. You should also eat more frequently, so you prepare a quick meal at the Txoko before heading home.
People go to Txokos daily. It’s part of their overall engagement with food. Nearly every citizen is a member. Membership is inclusive of other cultures when traditional custom was to be exclusive for locals. Members come together to learn cooking, celebrate good food and pass on skills multi-generationally. Txokos are a culturally resilient Basque institution. Membership is optional, however the Basque Government provides incentives for participating, such as tax breaks and food produced by the txokos, coupled with more flexible hours at the workplace, as the culture leans towards productivity over time spent. As the working people are motivated to join the txoko, retired and elderly people also have many incentives to join. In the txoko they have a place to keep active, be a valuable part of the community and eat great food. When an older member cooks in the txoko, younger members are excited to join in the prep. It’s a way for them to learn about the traditional ways and listen to great stories of other times, where being Basque was very different but essentially the same: treasuring food, sharing stories of people and being resilient to change with tenacity.
Txokos, like in 2020, are exciting places, to spend time together, enjoy food and feel energized by the frantic activity that they host. Any given day you could work in the vegetable garden, give a hand processing seasonal produce for different uses, assist or teach a class or cook a small meal to share. This positive environment has been key in overturning crippling rates of depression and anxiety. The Chef has been an essential figure in popularizing Txokos.
The chef’s platform is very visible, like a celebrity, but also a social activist. They are the voice of the public on issues like health awareness, sustainability, and biodiversity. Their messages are communicated through restaurants, but also outside of the kitchen. They are often seen teaching workshops in New Txokos, working with scientists and farmers to promote sustainable farming and healthy and sustainable eating habits. New Txokos are also a platform of open innovation, for multidisciplinary cooperation between key players of innovation in Gipuzkoa food space. Information technologies have been an amplifier of chef’s knowledge. Chefs have historically worked opposite to supplier consolidation, sometimes buying from over 40 suppliers to ensure the best products. In 2050, this knowledge has been capitalized by society, participating in live rating platforms of local producers curated by chefs, keeping an open, transparent and dynamic local market, ensuring fair prices and competitiveness. Overall, chefs are an excellent vehicle for communication about wellbeing and the food system.
A set of policies, technology and innovations have totally changed the face of the logistics. Products can be accessed directly, maximizing transparency and profit for the farmer. Policies that protect local producers from cheaper imported products, mostly based on carbon footprint taxes, are in place. Any given day a citizen of Gipuzkoa can buy food either through new txokos, markets, stores or chef curated platforms, and pick it up in person, approached by last mile self-driven transport or from food lockers in urban and rural settings. Precision and efficiency along the system, coupled with food engagement and communal food management in Txokos has led to zero waste.
Immigrants have slowly grown into being a large part of the population and have social status as they represent the productive muscle of the economy. Their backgrounds are diverse, some coming from other parts of Spain due to both desertification of the South and high quality of life in Gipuzkoa. Others are political and climate refugees from overseas. Lastly, Personalized Gastronomy attracts highly skilled workers to all sectors of the food system.
In the healthcare system, food is the main tool for health, and chefs and scientists work to design foods that for example incorporate and feed microbes in your body that promote health. It’s proven that the most effective nutrition is with local and seasonal products and food becomes mainstream preventive medicine. Agriculture focuses on producing medicine-grade produce, aimed at achieving most quality of micro compounds. Such precision leads to the creation of brain foods, specialized for enhancing emotions and cognitive functions.
Doctors will provide personalized health advice by monitoring real-time data from wearables. These changes in healthcare system attract pharma, now called Phood, to research the impact of these paradigm shift. Attracting heavyweights of the industry is a new source of input to our economy, that is injected into all programs in Personalized Gastronomy.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?