East Bay Chef Siew-Chinn Chin Is a Finalist in a Global Contest

The Basque Culinary World Prize honors socially conscious gastronomists.


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Image courtesy of the Basque Culinary World Prize

The Berkeley-based Charlie Cart Project anounced last week that its chef-educator Siew-Chinn Chin — who is also the master pickler at Oakland's Ramen Shop — has been chosen as a finalist for the Basque Culinary World Prize

Now in its fourth year, the Basque Culinary World Prize is organized and promoted by the Basque government under the Euskadi-Basque Country Strategy and the Basque Culinary Center, which is hailed as the world’s leading gastronomic research and teaching institution. Winners are chosen based on positive societal impacts that they have manifested through a food lens. Each winner is awarded 100,000 Euros, which then goes to an outfit of his or her choice that transforms society through gastronomy. 

“Today, youth grow up surrounded by processed food sold by large, for-profit corporations without any awareness about our health or our future," Chin is quoted as saying on the BCWP website.

"I hope that our influence on young people’s eating habits, as small as that influence may be, transforms future generations. It’s like the race between the tortoise and the hare. If persistent, the tortoise can win," Chin said.

Operating in 130 sites nationwide, developed by professional chefs and teachers, the Charlie Cart Project is an educational program that merges food, nutrition, and cooking with lessons in a range of other fields such as math, English language arts, and science. A mobile kitchen-classroom — outfitted with utensils, electricity, a convection oven, induction cooktop and a stainless-steel rinse station with gray recovery — is part of the curriculum.

Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters serves on the Charlie Cart Project Advisory Board, as does UC Berkeley professor and The Omnivore's Dilemma author Michael Pollan. 

Chin is one of ten finalists from a global array of 250 “trailblazing chefs, whose work has had an impact beyond the kitchen," as reported in a press release. 

Before joining Charlie Cart in 2014, Malaysian-born Chin spent eight years as a pastry chef at Chez Panisse. Having trained in chemistry, she has also worked with testing imported food products to determine their quantities of preservatives and other chemical additives. Among her current activities is teaching youth cooking classes at the San Francisco Public Library. 

One of her competitors in the competition is San Francisco chef-restaurateur Anthony Myint, founder of Mission Street Food, Mission Chinese Food, Mission Cantina, Mission Burger, Lt. Waffle, and Commonwealth Restaurant.

Last year's Basque Culinary World Prize winner was Jock Zonfrillo, who worked hard to defend the ancient — but often sidelined and excluded — food culture of indigenous Australians.

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