by Cecil Cramer
It is estimated that the world’s population will reach close to 10 billion by 2050, and the food industry must adjust in order to feed this number. Currently there is a growing consciousness around food waste and some very prominent chefs are demonstrating in a dramatic way how this problem can be addressed. Eighty percent of the world’s water, 40% of the world’s land, and 10% of the world’s energy is devoted to producing food, approximately 1/3 of which is not eaten. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, developed countries are the most wasteful, with an average of over 100kg of food per person ending up in the garbage annually. One reason for this is the false belief that the world has endless resources; think of the “all you can eat” buffet. Considering that over two billion people are malnourished, repeated visits to the buffet in order to get the most bang for the buck is a dramatic example of excess, unnecessary and unhealthy consumption.
One of the world’s finest chefs, Massimo Bottura is a man with intense passion, energy and playfulness whose last book is entitled “Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef”. But there is another, less lighthearted project he is spearheading, which may overshadow the adulation he receives for Osteria Francescana, his three starred Michelin restaurant in Modena.
Bottura is working tirelessly to bring global awareness to the staggering amount of food that is under-utilised. One of the projects he has set in motion is called “FOODFORSOUL”, in which he has created establishments located in neighbourhoods where much of the population struggles with food insecurity. These restaurants or, Refettorio – which roughly translates as recuperate and restore – offer healthy, three-course meals to people in need, such as the homeless and refugees, but Bottura is quick to point out, “This is not a charity project, but a cultural one”.
Starting close to his home, Bottura launched his first Refettorio in Milan. In the kitchen, the ingredients his chefs cook with are surplus foods close to the sell by date, cosmetically misshapen or damaged, and, by current market standards and public health regulations, unsuitable to sell; instead of being discarded, the food is donated to the kitchen from local supermarkets.
It was during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where Bottura’s idea landed on the world stage. A pop-up Refettorio was created where many of the world’s top chefs volunteered their time and services producing meals for 5000 guests per day.
As of June 5, 2017, a new branch has begun operating in London, England, and the Rockefeller Foundation has provided a generous grant in order bring at least two Refettorios to the United States in the near future. The initiative is not solely dedicated to feed those living in poverty, rather it’s mandate is to encourage the marginalized and socially isolated to enjoy some togetherness – and good food, of course! – for an hour or so.
Instead of being forced to wait in line for a handout, Bottura’s concept allows guests some dignity and a chance to enjoy a healthy meal while being treated with respect and kindness.
In November, he will be releasing Bread is Gold, a cookbook featuring recipes by 45 chefs from around the globe. Each recipe utilizes wasted product in the same way that Bottura does in his Refettorios.
Bottura’s passion and lofty ambition can be encapsulated by a quote by him in his new book, “these dishes could change the way we feed the world, because they can be cooked by anyone, anywhere, on any budget. To feed the planet, first you have to fight the waste”.
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Cecil Cramer has worked in kitchens since starting as a dishwasher in his early teens. Over the last four years, he was the Executive Chef at Casa Loma in charge of special events. While in this position, he championed local farmers and independent food producers, prominently featuring them for most high profile events including a dinner in 2016 for Prime Minister Trudeau and Toronto Life’s 50th anniversary gala. Currently he teaches culinary skills at Centennial College and volunteers at the PARC community centre kitchen. By contributing articles and recipes to FoodReach, Cecil’s hope is to educate the public on how individual and community efforts can shape the future of food security.
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