Food to Soothe the Soul

A Manifesto by Massimo Bottura, top chef Osteria Francescana, rated as the world's best restaurant

“This is the best time to make the invisible visible”, announces chef Massimo Bottura. As a society, why should we hide our problems? We must face the fact that there is food waste and hunger at the same time, and that it makes no sense at all. On top of this, what we need – ultimately – is to restore our sense of food culture.

Massimo Bottura August 2016
To give back and restore dignity, to the food and to the people. For me, today, this is the supreme duty of a chef. Which is why, along with my wife Lara, we founded the non-pro t organisation Food for Soul. And with this association, we have replicated the Refettorio Ambrosiano, the refectory that opened during the Expo in Milan, where, on the outskirts of the city, some of the greatest chefs in the world were gathered, from Ducasse to Adrià, from Redzepi to Acurio, cooking in a soup kitchen for people in need, using the remains of the food stocks from the exhibition halls each day.

This model has to be replicated in places where physical hunger goes hand in hand with a need for culture. It’s not a charity project that is needed, but a cultural one. In 2016, we find ourselves in Lapa, a neighbourhood in Rio where there are so many homeless. Here, we have opened a refectory where the chefs use the leftover food from the Olympic Village on a daily basis. By the end of the games, we calculate that we’ll have served about 20,000 meals, in shifts of 110 people. But it is not just about the food; it’s a meeting place with music and artwork. We welcome local people in a premises embellished with works that have been donated by contemporary artists, because good- ness is associated with beauty. This is not, as many say, a charity project, but rather a cultural project. People are redeemed through food and the sharing thereof. But the food is also redeemed.
We have the responsibility to restore dignity to food. Worldwide, some 800 million people suffer from undernourishment and malnutrition. On the other hand, one-third of edible production – in stores and supermarkets, home pantries and restaurants – ends up in rubbish bins and landfills. With what we throw away we could partially solve the hunger problem. Although chefs have a duty to satisfy palates, they also have the moral obligation to respect the ingredients and care for the planet. After all, we have an extensive knowledge of food and production techniques. And knowledge develops consciousness. And from consciousness comes a sense of responsibility.
Massimo Bottura (far left) celebrating the third day of Refettorio Gastromotiva along with Brazilian chefs Carlos Garcia, Alex Atala, and David Hertz (third from the right), the latter being one of the leaders of the Social Gastronomy Movement in Brazil
It is often said that a person is beautiful inside. Indeed, we need to understand that food is also beautiful inside. A fruit that’s not beautiful looking, that is awed, still has a lot to give. Food, even when it is not at its freshest, has much to offer. A banana, newly picked, will be perfect by itself as a snack, but a very mature specimen will make a great sorbet. Foods are like people: from a young person, you can expect athletic ability and physical strength; from a grandparent, you can expect to receive advice about life. Food is as sacred as life itself: we must learn to respect it and to fight waste.
Bottura issuing instructions during one of the servings at Refettorio Gastromotiva
This article appeared in DAM58. Order your personal copy.
Portraits of chefs are featured on the walls at Refettorio Gastromotiva
Chefs Alex Atala and Massimo Bottura thank one of the staff members
Vik Muniz, 'Last Supper, pictures of chocolate (triptych) 1998, chromogenic print \\ wall of the Refettorio
The exterior of Refettorio Gastromotiva, inaugurated in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro during this year's Olympic Games. The interior design of the gourmet soup kitchen Refettorio Gastromotiva was realised by Metro Architecture, Vik Muniz, the Campana brothers, and Maneco Quinderé

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Massimo Bottura

Massimo Bottura, the stellar chef whose restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy was awarded first place on the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants this year, has a lot to say outside of his kitchen. Aiming to shed light on the issue of food waste and to raise awareness of the importance of fully utilising the food supply, he created Refettorio Ambrosiano during ExpoMilano 2015, and during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, he has instated another Refettorio Gastromotiva. An important part of this project is the cultural aspect. Architects, designers, and artists have donated their work in order to make Refettorio Gastromotiva a beautiful and inclusive space where everyone feels comfortable, welcome, and inspired. Metro Architecture, Vik Muniz, the Campana brothers, and Maneco Quinderé were among those who contributed to making the space unique, infusing it with art, beauty, and design.

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