I love to hear how very accomplished people are applying their resources and talents to making the world a better place. Someone I was not previously familiar with but read about during last summer’s Olympics, is Massimo Bottura – one of the world’s pre-eminent chefs. This amazing man is using his skills to address two really big issues: hunger and food waste. You probably know that too many people in the world don’t get enough to eat, but how much do you know about food waste? Well, believe it or not, 1.3 billion tonnes of food, or one third of all the food produced, is discarded each year, while 795 million people around the world go hungry! Those are horrifying statistics (courtesy of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). However, I am inspired by the way Mr. Bottura has chosen to address these two related issues.
Through his non-profit organization Food for Soul, Mr. Bottura transforms abandoned spaces into beautiful dining rooms, rescues abandoned food (aka food waste) and invites neglected souls to enjoy an elegant meal prepared and served by chefs and volunteers.
Based on this model, Mr. Bottura set up Refettorio Gastromotiva (Dining Hall in Italian) in Rio De Janeiro during last summer’s Olympics. There, he prepared sumptuous three course meals with ingredients that would otherwise have been discarded by the Olympic Village and served them to some of Rio’s most impoverished citizens. All of this took place in a transformed derelict building away from the bright lights and buzz of the Olympic venues. Everything about Mr. Bottura’s efforts are focused on providing an inclusive experience for his guests, ensuring they are treated with dignity, respect and come away well nourished. According to The New York Times, one diner had this to say: “These guys shake your hand and treat you like you’re the boss.” He said that eating at Refettorio Gastromotiva had provided him with a much need dollop of kindness and respect”. And to quote the inestimable Mr. Bottura, “This is not a charity; it’s not just about feeding people. This is about social inclusion, teaching people about food waste and giving hope to people who have lost all hope.” Watch this video to hear from the great chef himself
And, when the media packed up their equipment and all the tourists and athletes left Rio, Refettorio Gastromotiva continues on as a social enterprise teaching disadvantaged youth vocational training in cooking, baking and serving providing them with valuable job skills. Thanks to Mr. Bottura and his colleagues, neglected souls continue to be nourished and treated with dignity.