In Brazil, Master Chef Turns Leftovers Into Fine Dining for Country’s Hungry

Chefs Massimo Bottura and Carlos Garcia talk in the kitchen during the dinner service. Joao Velozo for NPR
Chefs Massimo Bottura and Carlos Garcia talk in the kitchen during the dinner service.
Joao Velozo for NPR

It’s a soup kitchen fit for kings and queens.

And that is exactly the way internationally famous chef Massimo Bottura wants it. The aim of this new venture, though, is different: It’s a gourmet soup kitchen that uses leftovers to feed the less fortunate.

When you walk into Bottura’s latest culinary temple, it would not be out of place in his home city of Modena, Italy, the location of his Michelin three-star restaurant Osteria Francescana.

“This is not a charity project, but a cultural one,” Bottura says. “It’s involving architects, artists, designer[s], to create a space full of beauty and culture.”

Designers like Brazil’s famed Campana brothers made the tables and chairs. São Paulo artist Vik Muniz — whose work has sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars — created a huge mural of a dripping chocolate Last Supper. It’s a light and airy space that delights the senses in every way. Bottura says it was a deliberate effort.

“One of the most important things of this project is we give dignity, rebuild dignity,” Bottura says. “It’s not just about good food.”

But of course, good food is a part of it. Every night a different world-famous chef takes the helm. Their challenge is to make a gourmet meal out of what has been donated.

“So we are going to get the overripe banana, the ugly mango or milk that was almost expired,” he says. “And we show people what we can do with that — something amazing, something bright, something full of hope.”

Everyone is helping out, especially the Olympic organizers.

“All the restaurants in Rio de Janeiro are donating food. Yesterday, a big truck came full of food from the Olympic venues, we didn’t know what to do with it all,” Bottura says, smiling. “We unloaded some of it, then we sent the rest to other communities.”

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SOURCE: NPR
Lulu Garcia-Navarro