In the culinary world, Massimo Bottura is a big deal. With his extensive list of accolades and awards, and his renowned restaurant Osteria Francescana in Italy, Bottura is a culinary force to be reckoned with. Bottura, however, is taking some time away from his restaurant and focusing on a new revolutionary culinary project highlighting two global issues: food waste and food insecurity.
In 2015, Bottura started Refettorio as part of the nonprofit organization Food for Soul, which he founded with his wife Lara Gilmore. Refettorio translates to "rebuild or restore," and Bottura has taken abandoned buildings and turned them into beautiful dining establishments to feed the hungry with ingredients entirely derived from food waste. Food waste is a major global issue as approximately 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Hunger has continued to be an issue affecting over 800 million people around the world. Over 19 percent of residents in Philadelphia alone are food insecure according to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.
With help from some of the best chefs in the world, Bottura opened the first Refettorio outside Milan. He worked with talented artists and designers to transform an old theatre. They created a space for patrons who are less fortunate to have a culinary experience they will never forget. Bottura realized a typical soup kitchen operation didn’t seem right and wanted meals served in courses. With the success of the Milan location, he has opened three more locations in London, Rio de Janeiro, and Paris.
Bottura recently talked about his new cookbook, Bread is Gold: Extraordinary Meals with Ordinary Ingredients, at Drexel University as part of their annual Philly Chef Conference. This cookbook is a collection of recipes from over 50 chefs who have worked with Bottura at Refettorio. The recipes all utilize food waste. One example of this is turning banana peels into chutney. The title, Bread Is Gold, comes from a childhood memory of Bottura's: he would eat old bread with warm milk and coffee for breakfast. That memory inspired one of his signature dishes, Il pane è oro, and the essence of the cookbook. It is definitely something to have in your cookbook collection and we even have it in ours, as Bread Is Gold is now available in our catalog!
In the meantime, think twice about trashing those banana peels.