I met Massimo Bottura last fall when he spoke at the 2016 Food on the Edge Symposium in Galway, Ireland. He graciously signed my copy of his book and wrote, "Always live your life as a dream". Very original.
I had an idea of Chef Massimo’s story from the Netflix series, Chef’s Table, and I knew that his restaurant, Osteria Francescana, in Moderna, Italy, was rated #1 World’s Best Restaurant of 2016 and is a 3-Star Michelin. Not been there yet! Massimo is a revolutionary chef, taking Italian food to the next level. He is also artistic. He wants your dinner experience to bring out memories of your (or, “his”) childhood. He has earned his way working in many restaurants and training with the world’s greatest. He has many years of experiencing failures and successes. His is the real chef’s story.
I assumed I’d hear more of it. What I didn’t expect was a story of the soup kitchen he founded in Rio de Janeiro in September 2016 after the summer Olympics. He wanted to use all the food that would have been discarded from the Olympic Village to be salvaged and re-created as meals for the hungry. He did it in his style. He found space in the worst area of Rio, where it “smelled of poverty and desperation”. He transformed it into a beautiful modern restaurant. I was confused during his presentation. I thought he created this restaurant for paying patrons for profit to help the poor. No... the restaurant was created for the poor. Cooks and waiters volunteer and treat every guest royally. The poor are given food, nourishment and a great (perhaps life-changing) experience. A good meal can restore a person and "rebuild dignity". This is the same initiative Massimo started in Milan, Italy. I hope it is the blueprint of many more of these dining halls that Massimo will initiate around the world. This restaurant sustains itself today as a lunch-time restaurant for paying patrons with the profits to pay for the dinner service for the homeless. It is a restaurant for famous and not-so-famous chefs to donate their skills and time. It has also created a training ground for homeless to learn cooking skills.
Massimo is using his fame and notoriety to do good and his celebrated skill in a genuine way. He said, “once you receive everything in life, you have to give back”. There is a sense of responsibility and for him, cooking is a call to act.
His message was clear:
We are too lucky, too aware, too talented.
The human condition is fragile.
In this world, there is a mismatch of the hungry and the obese. Feed the planet, find the waste.
Be bold, be brave, be daring, make mistakes, take chances, do show you really care doing something.
Take it to another level. Take it to the next level.
Do first, talk after.
No more excuses.
His speech moved me. He was so articulate and inspiring. I hope to find my own way to give back. I hope my lettuce business will allow me to do that.