Some of you know that I've been learning Italian here and there for the last few years. Part of that includes spending time with the Italian films on Netflix - of course. I've found some real gems in there but today I finished what just might be my favourite: Theater of Life.
It's a wonderful documentary about the efforts of Massimo Bottura to use the food waste from the Milan Expo 2015 to open up a gourmet soup kitchen. The resulting soup kitchen - Refettorio Ambrosiano - is incredible. It's housed in an abandoned theater and it delivers a fine dining experience. It's a beautiful location and more than 60 chefs from around the world come to create gourmet dishes for people who wouldn't ordinarily have access to fine dining experiences.
However, Refettorio Ambrosiano isn't a charity. It's a community kitchen which raises awareness about food waste and social isolation. It's goal is to prevent food from being thrown away and to bring people together.
The film focuses on the people who come to Refettorio Ambrosiano much more than Massimo Bottura. You get to see all the little intersections of where their lives cross. And then you realize that the likes of Rene Redzepi and Mario Batali are also putting in time and talent at the Refettorio. These stories get woven together - at times it does seem like there are too many strings - but it's a wonderful, heartwarming movie and I'll definitely watch it again.
Now, Massimo Bottura kept up the energy from Refettorio Ambrosiano after the Milan Expo ended and partnered with his wife to create a nonprofit with the same mission: Food For Soul. They have Refettorios in Rio de Janeiro, London, Milan and Paris and Social Tables in Naples, Modena and Bologna. Social Tables are weekly services that provide a low cost meal to families and individuals in community settings. Then of course - there's Bread is Gold - a book by Bottura and the 50 other chefs from Refettorio Ambrosiano which focuses on creating food from food waste. The proceeds from Bread is Gold go right back into Food for Soul.
I wish I could buy Bread is Gold - but I just (unexpectedly) spent $200 today on vendor fees and another hefty purchase would uncomfortable for me. So, I'm just donating money to them :) If you'd like - you can donate alongside me here
Massimo Bottura is one of the people I admire most on this planet - and it's my not-so-secret wish to one day eat at Osteria Francescana (or any of his restaurants). I've always known about his heart for community and giving back - but to find out that he started Food for Soul fills me with joy. There are so many good people out there - you just have to find them.