'Bread Is Gold is a cultural project to change people's minds'
Massimo Bottura kicks off his US tour with lofty ambitions (and a really fun meet and greet at Wholefoods NYC)
Masimo Bottura kicked off his Bread Is Gold US tour with a signing at Wholefoods NYC and a talk at 92nd Y yesterday. In the afternoon our Skinny Italian Chef was at Wholefoods Bryant Park hugging babies, offering encouragement to fledgling chefs and putting a big smile on the face of everyone who came into his orbit.
After Massimo had signed her Bread Is Gold T-Shirt an overwhelmed Nafida Zaman told us: “I admire him so much. I’ve been a big fan ever since Chef's Table. He’s one of the most compassionate people in the public eye I’ve ever seen. I admire all the work he’s done for Modena and the work against food waste. I promote his achievements when I can. And I keep him in my prayers all the time.”
A fresh faced Tim Evans had queued for half-an-hour to get his copy of Bread Is Gold signed. “I’m buying it for my girlfriend for Christmas," he told us. "On one of our first dates I asked her over to my apartment to cook for her and we ended up watching the episode of Chef’s Table with Massimo that night. We've been together a few months now and it’s been going really well. This will be really special for her.”
Lavazza provided sustenance for Massimo's mammoth signing session and Wholefoods even created a Bread Is Gold pasta salad for the day.
Later that evening, at 92nd Y Massimo appeared on a panel on food sustainability moderated by Mitchell Davis and featuring fellow chefs Danny Bowien, Daniel Humm, NYC Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and Professor of Food Studies at the New School, Fabio Parasecoli.
Massimo began by pointing out that the Bread Is Gold and Food For Soul Initiatives were "not charity but cultural projects to change the minds of people who are ready to understand."
He paid tribute to fellow Phaidon author and gastronomy legend Ferran Adria "for teaching us that food can be emotional."
The discussion was a lively one, thanks in part to Mitchell Davis's expert handling of a varied and knowledgeable bunch of guests. Indeed, Kathryn Garcia was the unexpected star of the night with a series of revelations and insights into how New York deals with its food waste challenges.
She revealed that an incredible 1.3 million tons of food is wasted in New York each year. "It's an incredible waste of money," she said, adding "you might as well bag up dollar bills and throw them out the back door."
She explained that the most wastedingredients are skin, stalks, bread and she gave restaurant owners a tip for combating food waste in a small way: "Change the size of the plate! Buffets are the worst for waste."
Massimo's tip was one we can all follow. "To me the best recipe we can make is seasonal - find half-an-hour every three days to buy food and you're not going to waste anything."
The Professor of Food Studies at the New School Fabio Parasecoli highlighted what he thought was one of the big reasons for food waste when he noted how we have "lost the sense of how important food is. Everyone has access to cheap food and that makes it less important," he added.
Backstage, before the talk, Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food had told us about the importance of buying what he called "ugly food" - vegetables close to their sell-by date that may not look great, but often taste better.
Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park thought there were "so many layers" to the Food For Soul/ Bread Is Gold story, and highlighted the surroundings of the original Refettorio Ambrosiano. "You see tables designed by the greatest furniture designers and murals on the walls by the greatest artists."
On this point, Massimo recounted how he had been "treated like a prince" for creating the initiative but juxtaposed this with a poignant comment from one of the diners who had enjoyed the experience and who told him that for the first time in his life he was "treated like a human."
Massimo wound up by called Bread Is Gold “ the most important book of the last 20 years.” We would obviously agree with him on this point. The evening, hosted by Lavazza and 92nd Y, was a BIG success. You can understand more about the book and the project by reading more of our Kitchen Alchemy series with Massimo here and watching the video of the talk on our home page. Look out for more stories from Massimo's US tour coming soon. Oh, and don't forget to buy Bread Is Gold. It's here.