As nations around the world have been preparing teams to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, chef Massimo Bottura has assembled a dream team for his own kind of sport: feeding people in need from food that would go to waste.
The Italian chef’s nonprofit, Food for Soul, has teamed up with Gastromotiva, a Brazilian nonprofit, to create RefettoRio Gastromotiva, a soup kitchen project inspired by Bottura’s first foray into bringing attention to food waste last year in Milan. There, at Milan Expo 2015, he staged Refettorio Ambrosiano, a food recovery soup kitchen that was able to recover 15 tons of food over five months to feed people in need.
RefettoRio Gastromotiva, which opens today in Rio, is projected to recover 12 tons of food surplus from the Olympic Village in just 44 days during the Olympics and Paralympics. The recovered food will be transformed into meals by top chefs from around the world, including Alain Ducasse and Andoni Aduriz, and former Gastromotiva students. Dinners will be prepared in a 108-speat space in Rio’s Lapa neighborhood and served free of charge to residents in need.
While Bottura’s goal for RefettoRio Gastromotiva is to shine a light on the global issue of food waste during the Olympics, after the games are over and the media leave, RefettoRio Gastromotiva will live on. The city has granted the space to Gastromotiva for 10 years. It will become a restaurant-school that will offer workshops on nutrition and healthy food, and it will continue to offer free meals funded through a “pay a lunch and leave a dinner” model.
So what drives an internationally acclaimed chef whose restaurant Osteria Francescana just earned the top spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list to work on the issue of food waste?
“I promised my mother I would use my fame to make invisible people visible. The time has come to give back to the world what it has given to me,” said Bottura. He told Eater that he wants to bring back the culture of Italian grandmothers who eschewed waste and knew how to use every last bit of every ingredient.
Bottura’s visibility has helped attract corporate sponsors for his “community kitchen” projects, of which more are reportedly in the works, including a project in the Bronx with actor and restaurateur Robert De Niro.
And while one goal of his organization is to reduce waste and feed people directly, ultimately Bottura wants to inspire and empower other communities to do the same. We’re excited to see what he’s cooking up for future projects here in North America and around the world!
Inspired by this story? Get involved by volunteering with a local food rescue group. Find one in your area through the Food Rescue Locator.
Photo of Massimo Bottura by Paolo Terzi.