After similar projects in Rio and London, star chef Massimo Bottura’s soup kitchen, Food for Soul, has arrived in the French capital. The restaurant, Refettorio Paris, has been established in one of the most luxurious areas of the city, in the crypt of the church La Madeleine. With the partnership of an existing charity, Foyer de la Madeleine, and the help of Jean-François Rial (CEO of Voyageurs du Monde, sustainable tourism tour operator), the restaurant opened on 15th March 2018.
The project, born during the Milan World Expo in 2015, is aimed to offer quality meals for those in most need, cooked with ingredients normally destined to landfill (on a global scale, food waste represents 1.3 billion tons per year). Superstores such as Carrefour and Métro are among the food providers, supplying the 130kg of ingredients used for cooking 100 meals a day. And with the project being a non-profit, all the waiters of the Refettorio are volunteers.
The customers (women, migrants, families) can have a full dinner – starter, main course and dessert – prepared by well-known chefs from all around the world. To date, 50 chefs have already participated by creating varied menus. These dishes were eventually listed in a recipe book (Bread is Gold: Extraordinary Meals with Ordinary Ingredients, 2017).
Not only a charity, Food for Soul is also a cultural project. Bottura believes beauty should not be a privilege and he wants to welcome his guests in a pleasant and modern environment. To make this happen, he has invited famous designers, architects and artists such as Prune Noury, Nicolas Delon and Kubra Khademi to contribute to the embellishment of the site.
Food for Soul clearly distinguishes itself from a traditional and utilitarian soup kitchen. Not only a place to eat, it is a place for guests to enjoy their meal and avoid social exclusion.
There are currently four Refettorio chains active (London, Rio, Paris and Milan) representing 830 volunteers, 340 guest chefs and 45 tons of recovered food. Now Bottura wants to expand his project across the globe and his next destination is the US.
Sabine Khan is a sustainable tourism copywriter living and working in France.