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June 20, 2019

South Philly Barbacoa's Cristina Martínez is a finalist for the 2019 Basque Culinary World Prize

The award recognizes chefs for their efforts to "improve society through gastronomy"

Food & Drink Awards
South Philly Barbacoa Basque Prize South Philly Barbacoa/Facebook

Cristina Martínez is seen here outside her landmark South Philly Barbacoa restaurant. Martínez is one of 10 finalists for the Basque Culinary World Prize, both for her food and for her efforts to "improve society through gastronomy."

South Philly Barbacoa's Cristina Martínez cannot — and, as long as the tacos are still plentiful, should not — be stopped.

Martínez is one of 10 finalists for the Basque Culinary World Prize, the award's organizers announced Thursday. Martínez is one of three U.S. residents nominated for the award, along with chefs from Ghana, Panama, Italy, Spain, Peru, the United Kingdom, and Denmark.

The young award, in its fourth year, bills itself as "a new, international achievement award that will recognize one chef, of any nationality or culinary background, who has made an exceptional contribution to improving society through gastronomy."

Though the award is relatively new, its judges from the International Council of the Basque Culinary Center feature some of the most revered chefs in the world, including René Redzepi of Noma and Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana.

South Philly Barbacoa's official Instagram account posted a message about the nomination on Thursday:

"A huge honor!" the restaurant wrote. "Cristina has been nominated for the 2019 Basque Culinary World Prize! This award recognizes chefs who use their food to drive social change. If she wins, she will be awarded 100,000€ to donate to a food justice project of her choice. We hope she wins and we can bring this prize to continue doing movement building work in Philadelphia! Thank you @bculinarywp for the recognition."

Martínez, who is public about being an undocumented immigrant, is a vocal immigration rights advocate and has used her platform in the last few years to be a voice for immigrants in Philadelphia and around the country. 

She has appeared on late-night television to talk about the issue, she travels within the region to talk about sustainable food systems, and, earlier this year, participated in a fundraiser to benefit the Popular Alliance for Undocumented Workers' Rights here in Philly.

Back in March, Martínez was nominated in the Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic category at the 2019 James Beard Awards.

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