I am a fan of “nose to tail” eating, which means that you use as much of an animal as possible, so that nothing goes to waste. The amount of food that is wasted in restaurants and homes around the world is estimated at a third of all the food bought, and the majority of this food can be used to create delicious meals. This is a scandal when you think about the amount of people in the world that do not have enough food to eat each day. Italians are masters of using everything that people would consider as leftovers, and I will be sharing some of these recipes in future posts.
Massimo Bottura believes the same. He is an Italian restaurateur and the chef patron of Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-star restaurant based in Modena, Italy which has been listed in the top 5 at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards since 2010. He is so passionate about this that he set up the “Food For Soul” project to tackle food waste, and to feed the needy and vulnerable in all parts of the world, which so far have been in Italy, England and Rio.
The idea behind “Food For Soul” is to create sustainable community kitchens by renovating old or neglected buildings, and transforming them into bright community hubs where good food and art go hand in hand.
They then source quality in date ingredients that would otherwise go to waste, and transform them into nutritious multi-course meals that are cooked and served by paid staff and also an army of enthusiastic volunteers. Since they have started they have saved approximately 25 tons of perfectly good food surplus which would ordinarily have gone to waste, and served over 16,000 meals.
The people that are fed are people and families that find themselves in situations of food poverty, or social insecurity. These community kitchens are so much more than the “food kitchens” that people may be aware of. They are modern, clean places to eat, and the quality of everything from the food to the service to the cutlery used makes people feel that they are valued and to feel dignified.
However, these kitchens are more than just a place to feed the belly, but also to feed the mind and soul. Each one also holds educational workshops, vocational training, lectures and events that raise awareness on food waste and promote healthy and sustainable eating habits not only among guests but for the whole community.
Massimo’s idea originally started in Milan, when for the Expo in 2015 he and two other chefs transformed an abandoned theatre in a suburb of Milan into an avant-garde soup kitchen. He invited more than 65 international chefs to cook with the waste of the pavilions. During the 6 months of Expo, 100 volunteers washed dishes, mopped the floors and served more than 10.000 healthy and tasty meals cooked from 15 tons of salvaged food. Still today, it serves meals to the homeless of Milan, 5 days a week.
He then officially founded the “Food For Soul” project in April 2016, and opened up the Social Tables project in Bologna. The soup kitchen opens its doors every Monday evening to welcome families in need of the town. Chefs from the association CheftoChef from Emilia Romagna cook with the food surplus donated by supermarkets, producers and food industries of the region.
Food for Soul then wanted to replicate the same idea during the Olympic Games of Rio to raise awareness on hunger and food waste. On August 2016, they opened Refettorio Gastromotiva in Lapa, a vibrant but difficult neighbourhood in the heart of the city of Rio. It served 3,000 free meals to those in need from the start of the Olympics until the end of the Paralympics. Once the games ended, Refettorio Gastromotiva continued as soup kitchen for homeless people and as a centre for vocational training for young people from the favelas.
In December 2016, they opened the Ghirlandina cafeteria in their home town of Modena. It still opens its doors every Monday night to serve 60 guests in need.
They then decided to open a project in London in 2017 and identified St Cuthbert’s Centre in Earl’s Court as the site of its new community kitchen Refettorio Felix. The historic community space underwent an ambitious six-week makeover and reopened its doors on 5 June, in partnership with London Food Month festival, to serve delicious meals created from surplus ingredients provided by The Felix Project. During its first six weeks, it used two tons of food that would have otherwise been thrown away and served over 6,500 dishes to those in need, which where prepared by guest chefs from Giorgio Locatelli to Michel Roux Jnr, Jason Atherton to Monica Galletti, Alain Ducasse to Enrico Cerea, from Claire Smyth to Margot Henderson.
Now, with the help of over 300 volunteers, Refettorio Felix continues to open its doors every lunchtime to prepare and serve nutritious meals to vulnerable people. Both the kitchen and the hall are now available for rent to host workshops, team-building seminars, private dinners and any other kind of event. The proceeds significantly support the sustainability of Refettorio Felix and will make it an engaging cultural hub open to the community as a whole.
So, next time you go to throw something in the bin think about whether it can be used for another meal. It will save on food waste, and also make a saving on your food bill!
All photos courtesy and copyright of the Food For Soul website.