PETALING JAYA: Malaysian-born chef Siew-Chinn Chin is among 10 finalists vying for the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize 2019 award.
The award for trailblazing chefs, whose work has had an impact beyond the kitchen, carries a RM468,885 (€100,000) prize.
Chin, who moved to the United States in 1979 to study Chemistry at UC Berkeley, believes that children should be taught to eat organic and nutritious food at an early age.
She said obesity was a huge problem worldwide, especially in developed countries.
“The problem stems from the huge consumption of processed foods with lots of sugar and saturated fat.
“It’s important to teach kids good eating habits. In turn, they can influence their parents and caregivers,” she said in an interview.
Chin said it was a misconception that eating healthy was tedious and expensive.
She said fresh produce was readily available in most places.
“The main obstacle is planning and learning to prepare delicious food on a budget.
“It’s a matter of changing our habits. By bringing food education into schools, we can instil some of these habits effortlessly.”
Chin cooks many of her favourite Malaysian dishes using organic produce.
“One example is nyonya achar. It’s very popular at the restaurant in Oakland, California where I work,” she said.
When she was young, her father taught her to plant, harvest and sell produce at the market in Kuala Lumpur.
Chin was selected as a finalist because of her efforts in educating the next generation about healthy eating and living through initiatives like The Charlie Cart Project.
The project is an integrated educational programme that connects food and cooking with lessons in Math, English Language, Arts, Science and Social Studies.
It combines a rigorous curriculum with a mobile kitchen classroom to deliver hands-on nutrition education.
Using a mobile kitchen and recipes to show the connection between cooking, health and the environment, Chin has trained over 500 educators across the US.
She aims to bring children into contact with fresh, local ingredients and to empower the people to choose food that inspires and enriches them.
Some 150,000 children have since benefited from her curriculum.
“I hope our influence on young people’s eating habits can transform future generations.”
Describing the recognition as a “great honour”, she said it was amazing to be among like-minded chefs who are passionate about food, the future generation and preserving the Earth.
“I was surprised (to be among the finalists).
“The project has a big impact on a lean budget.
“We believe that what we do can change the eating habits of many kids. And through food education, we can change the food culture too,” she said.
On June 20, chefs representing 10 countries, including Italy, Spain, Ghana and the United Kingdom, were named as top 10 finalists for the award.
This is the fourth time the prize is being organised by the Basque Government and the Basque Culinary Centre, a world-leading gastronomic research and teaching institution.
Since February, 230 nominations were received from 42 countries.
The winner will be named on July 16, and the award ceremony will be held on Oct 24.
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