Massimo Bottura: Beyond the Michelin Stars

Last Tuesday, June 19, Osteria Francescana reclaimed its title as the world’s best restaurant.

The Modena restaurant is no stranger to the summit of the rankings, having scaled to the top once before in 2016 and placed in the top 5 for eight successive years, never dipping lower than its first ever placing of 13th in 2008.  But the mastermind behind this temple of modern Italian cuisine, Massimo Bottura, is becoming just as celebrated for his work at the other end of the spectrum, fighting food waste and using cooking and dining as a vehicle for social change.

In 2016, with 3 Michelin stars already to his name, Bottura founded Food for Soul, an initiative that he runs with his wife, Lara Gilmore, dedicated to reducing and preventing food waste, by feeding the needy and less fortunate within several communities. Food for Soul engages companies, organizations, and professionals to take part in creating community kitchens, bringing together a range people to weave a unique and beautiful tapestry of skills and contributions, rarely associated with social movements of the sort. Take for example Food for Soul’s most recently opened Refettorio in Paris: In the crypt underneath the central Parisian church La Madeleine, the Refettorio Paris, offers a meal and a table for the local community, as professional and highly trained chefs cook salvaged food in the kitchens, enjoyed between the walls repurposed and transformed by some of the city’s leading architects and artists. The Paris Refettorio is one of a group of such places, reclaiming and converting old (and in some cases abandoned) spaces to create kitchens and social tables. This commitment to the reuse and revival of neglected resources, carries through to the very food that arrives at the tables. The ingredients for each meal come from the fresh and edible produce that would otherwise go to waste each day, and comes to Food for Soul’s kitchens, collected and donated by a range of non-profit organizations and supermarkets.

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Photo Credit: JR

Just as Osteria Francescana is no ordinary restaurant, Massimo Bottura is no ordinary chef and restaurateur. The foundation of Food for Soul was the fruit of many years of learning and work on the topics that the organization deals with, among which, Bottura has cemented himself as a friend and supporter of Slow Food. A regular attendee at Slow Food events, Bottura espouses the same values as Slow Food, that the best food starts with the best ingredients, and that the social and cultural elements of gastronomy are key to provoking change.

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Photo Credit: Jean Blaise Hall

Massimo Bottura will join the likes of Raj Patel, Alon Shaya and Daniela Ibarra-Howell at Slow Food Nations in mid-July. Among the topics that he will discuss, food waste and how we can break the habit of producing and throwing away too much food will take center stage. Slow Food Nations is the flagship event for our USA network, with the star lineup of guests and workshops (tickets still available!) matched by a wealth of free and open events, and a market to fill the streets of Denver with the aromas and tastes of Slow Food.

To his already swollen list of accolades, Bottura arguably needs no further additions, but the impact of his social work and fight against food waste might just define his legacy.

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Photo Credit: Emanuele Colombo
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