Cristian Borchi and his team work in Vicchio, a small town in the heart of the Mugello region in Tuscany. They got together to manage the closure and reopening of their restaurant and the leftover ingredients in the pantry. This is where the idea of a ‘suspended meal’ for families in need came from: A story of solidarity that has since spread across the local area.
I grew up in close contact with food. My parents had a fruit & vegetable shop and ever since I was little I always had a passion for raw ingredients. What else was there for me to do but cook! I gained experience working overseas – France, Australia, the USA – and then returned home, because my bond with my homeland was just too strong; it was calling me back. I opened a restaurant in Vicchio, L’Antica Porta di Levante, and then another small bar in Borgo San Lorenzo, a more informal place. I’ve been a Slow Food activist for many years, collaborating with my local chapter and the Cooks’ Alliance.
How did the idea for the ‘suspended meals’ come about? Very simple!
When the time came to reopen bars and restaurants, together with my colleague Simone we found ourselves having to manage this excess of goods that hadn’t been sold, so we decided to do something similar to the ‘suspended coffee’ tradition of Naples. Every day we prepared two meals to deliver to whoever was in need, to those who can’t go to restaurants normally, with full respect for anonymity.
From there the initiative expanded thanks to word-of-mouth and social media, so we started to receive more ingredients from our suppliers: we were then able to give our customers the chance, when ordering a meal online, to gift another meal to someone less fortunate by paying €15 more for their own. We ourselves donate two meals for each service we run, lunch and dinner. In total we’ve been able to prepare and deliver over 800 suspended meals thanks to the support of the local council and other restaurateurs: a real success!
And it wasn’t just delivery either: we also made it possible for the recipients of the suspended meals to come and eat them in the restaurant: a special occasion for many families in difficult times, like a birthday for example. It was a great challenge for us, a commitment to help those who really needed it and to bring our cuisine to people who might not otherwise have encountered it, explaining it and allowing them to understand our work and the work of all the virtuous producers who support us every day. The joy of having done something good and having had the opportunity to inform a wider public that we wouldn’t otherwise have reached! We’ve been so happy with the initiative that we’d like to make it a permanent feature of our restaurant, a small good thing that this difficult time has given us.