In the refectories where the chefs cook food that should be thrown away

It started as a small adventure during Expo-2015, now Food for Soul has become a global network of 13 Refectories spread all over the world. The first to open in Milan, the last in Sydney in March this year. To create the non-profit association that has become a worldwide movement against food waste and a new way of welcoming more vulnerable citizens Lara Gilmore And Massimo Bottura, the multi-starred chef from Modena. In just seven years they managed to recover over 800 tons of food that would otherwise have been thrown away and to put thousands of people around the world around a table for dinner or lunch every day. From London to Rio de Janiero. .

Lara Gilmore and Massimo Bottura

Lara Gilmore and Massimo Bottura

A cultural project

“It’s not about doing charity. Food for Soul is a cultural project in which volunteers and chefs take part. Because we don’t want to give only a hot dish to those who come to us, but to offer people an opportunity for conviviality, welcoming them in a place healthy, enlightened, with a special focus on food. Give him hope for a better life, “he explains Lara Gilmore, American, in Italy for 28 years and creator with her husband of the ascent of the Franciscan tavern to the three Michelin stars. “Both Massimo and I wanted that recognition to be a tool, a voice to commit ourselves to something that went beyond our restaurant: the occasion was Expo with its themes on the environment”.

The debut with the first Refettorio in the Greco district of Milan, a new way to welcome the homeless: away the trays, a hundred people every evening for months were served at the table by the volunteers, with menus specially created by starred chefs.

The Food for Soul Refectory in Paris

The Food for Soul Refectory in Paris

860 million people in conditions of food insecurity

“The idea of ​​doing something against the food waste that inevitably would occur during Expo came immediately – says Gilmore – the numbers on this point were already chilling: 860 million people live in a condition of food insecurity. while 33% of food that comes from restaurants, supermarkets and our homes is thrown away every year. We didn’t want it to happen in Milan too, so with Massimo we involved other chefs who we knew would come from all over the world and we proposed to him to do this experiment: why don’t we bring the value of hospitality and the beauty of our restaurants into an open canteen to the most vulnerable people, each putting their own creativity? Thus was born the Refettorio Ambrosiano. And when Expo closed, Renè Redzepi (Danish chef four times the best in the world) told us: ‘This project will now always be part of your life.’ “And so it was, with the double idea of ​​feeding those who need it and to create a food collection network which, instead of being thrown away, is transformed with innovative recipes by local cooks

The kitchen, a great alchemist

We work with what would become food waste, and I’m talking about absolutely perfect raw material to cook. The kitchen is the great alchemist: the chef takes something that nobody wants and transforms it into something unexpected: a soup, an ice cream, a jam … “.

13 Refectories

After Expo, in 2016, the second Refettorio was born in Rio de Janeiro, on the occasion of the Olympics. Then London in 2017, Paris in 2018 with the partnership of large supermarket chains and the collaboration of restaurants and chefs. “Here the church has made available a place of great beauty, a crypt in the Madeleine style – says Lara Gilmore – a group of young people called us who wanted to tackle the issue of immigration. We use our voice to put together a network, even with financial aid, then the management is of the volunteers, but always with a view to fighting social isolation and food waste. Every evening in the crypt at the Madaleine 100 meals are prepared and the atmosphere of a starred restaurant is breathed. “Food for Soul opened its doors in Naples, San Francisco, Mexico, Geneva. The last one this year in February in Sidney. There is already a room under renovation for a Refettorio in Harlem, New York. “

Cooking with what is there

But how is a recipe to fight waste born? “Even improvising – says Gilmore – I give the example of revisited pesto by Massimo when he had to cook for the Refettorio Ambrosiano. That day, we had just opened and we found ourselves with a lot of basil in the fridge, but already a little worn out and still not so much to make a real pesto. At that point, since there were also several herbs left – such as mint, sage, parsley – he decided to use what he had and combined them with basil. Then there weren’t even pine nuts, so how do you replace something fat that you need to bind the flavors? We had a lot of bread, crumbling it and toasting it with a little olive oil, the solution was found. The result is an even more sustainable dish, because pine nuts are not seen as they are harvested. A pesto with a different flavor, light, so good that it has now become a recipe that is proposed in all the refectories, as well as being introduced in the cooking lessons held by Massimo. In short, the idea is not to throw anything away, but to use what you have in the fridge and invent. All recipes are interpretable. Even for someone like Massimo Bottura “.

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