Massimo Bottura opens Refettorios in NYC and San Francisco
The philanthropist chef can’t quite welcome diners to these places yet, but they're already sending meals to those in need
Back in the summer of 1978, a sixteen-year-old boy from Modena called Massimo Bottura went to San Francisco to study English. Upon arrival he had the impression that “California meant rock concerts, convertible cars, and cowboy hats.”
Like it has done for so many, the city of San Francisco profoundly altered his outlook on life. “After three months I was a different Massimo,” he says. “Yes, my English had improved but it was the life lessons I learned about diversity and freedom of expression that changed me forever.”
Over four decades later, the now world-famous chef has returned the favour, by opening his first Refettorio on the West Coast of America in the city. The Refettorio San Francisco is up and running at 149 Fell Street, and, despite the pandemic, is already delivering meals to the poor in conjunction with the local garden-to-table nonprofit, Farming Hope.
Though it hasn’t quite opened in the way that Massimo originally conceived (as a kind of haute cuisine soup kitchen, taking unwanted ingredients and turning them into nutritious meals for the poor) Refettorio San Francisco is already calling out for apprentices and volunteers. a brighter future is assured for all.
Meanwhile, over on the East Coast, Massimo is leaving a lasting impression on another city close to his heart. The chef met his wife, Lara Gilmore in New York in the spring of 1993, when they both worked at an Italian restaurant.
This year, Massimo and Gilmore (co-founder of the Refettorios charity, Food For Soul) opened Refettorio Harlem, at Emanuel AME Church at 37 W 119th St in Manhattan. Again, they can’t quite welcome diners in person, but working in conjunction with the local youth outreach organisation YAYB, and Hot Bread Kitchen’s Chef Collective, a charity that helps funds up to 600 meals per week, they’re managing to get hope, and healthy food out to some of NYC’s most needy. They will welcome proper diners once the pandemic has passed.
“We’re building our new Refeitorio walls,” the chef explains, “but we cannot stand aside in a moment when communities need us the most." To find out more about how the programme came about, and to cook some of the recipes that Massimo and his famous chef friends created at the original, Milan Refettorio, order a copy of Bread is Gold here.