Massimo Bottura helping out at the Felix Project, London. Image courtesy of Food for Soul
Massimo Bottura helping out at the Felix Project, London. Image courtesy of Food for Soul

The Pope guided Massimo Bottura to feed the poor

Here’s how divine intervention led the chef and Phaidon author’s philanthropic Food for Soul initiative

Massimo Bottura's haute cusine soup kitchen Refettorio Ambrosiano is made possible only through the generosity of chefs who share Bottura's values, and also thanks to produce supply firms, who arrange for nearly spoilt ingredients to be delivered to the Refettorio, so that the produce can be cooked into tasty, healthy meals for the poor.

Yet there is another, less prominent partner, in this undertaking: the head of the Catholic Church. As the world-beating chef and Phaidon author explained in an interview just published in the Observer Food Monthly supplement, Bottura initially intended his first Refettorio, founded in Milan in 2015, as part of the city’s Expo, to be a pop-up inside Milan’s main train station.

 

Massimo with fellow chef and Phaidon author Gastón Acurio at Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan. Photo by Emanuele Colombo. Courtesy of Food for Soul
Massimo with fellow chef and Phaidon author Gastón Acurio at Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan. Photo by Emanuele Colombo. Courtesy of Food for Soul

“Through the Catholic charity Carita, Bottura’s idea reached the Vatican,” explains the paper’s Tim Adams. “Pope Francis wondered if it might become a more sustainable venture. Why not site Refettorio in one of the blighted quarters on the city’s periphery? He put Bottura in touch with the parish priest in Greco, Don Guiliano, who suggested a derelict theatre next to his church as a venue, and an unlikely partnership was born – one which lead to a full-time commitment to serve Greco’s homeless and refugee population everyday.”

 

Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan. Photo by Paolo Saglia. Courtesy of Food for Soul
Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan. Photo by Paolo Saglia. Courtesy of Food for Soul
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Indeed, via the chef’s Food is Soul initiative, Bottura has managed to introduce similar ventures across the world. London’s Refettorio Felix will open in the British capital next month, with the support of the food waste organisation The Felix Project and Saint Cuthbert’s Church in Earl’s Court. Find out more here; for more on Massimo get his debut cookbook Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef; and for the full story and recipes, look out for our new Massimo Bottura book Bread is Gold coming soon.