Chefs Who Cook Well and Do Good: Massimo Bottura

by Deirdre Appel
Massimo Bottura

Name: Chef Massimo Bottura

Hometown: Modena, Italy

Age: 62

Culinary Training:  Massimo Bottura is a chef and restaurateur in Modena, Italy. His cuisine is based on a combination of Itaian and classical French . At his first trattoria—Trattoria del Campazzo—Chef Bottura worked with rezdora (a homemaker in local Modena dialect) Lidia Cristoni and later as an apprentice under Chef Georges Coigny. He further refined his style under legendary Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monte Carlo.

Best Known For: His three-Michelin-star restaurant, Osteria Francescana (which has been listed in the top 5 at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards since 2010), and as the founder of for Soul

How He Is Changing the Food System: With more than twenty years of experience, chef Bottura is considered one of the world’s culinary stars. In 2015, he moved from cooking food to saving it when he decided to apply his energy to combating . In early 2016, he founded Food for Soul, a nonprofit whose goal is to empower communities to fight food waste through social inclusion. Its program is divided into three main activities: refettorios, social tables, and the Learning Network.

Refettorios are community kitchens where guests in need are served nutritious and nourishing dishes in a convivial atmosphere. The word refettorio comes from the Latin reficere, meaning to re-make, but also to restore. With the help of various partners,the nonprofit restores and renovates neglected or underused spaces, transforming them into inspiring community hubs, open Monday to Friday, where people in socially vulnerable situations can feel welcome, and where the community can rediscover the value of the abandoned space as well as the potential behind food surplus. Running entirely on food waste and volunteers which, because of Botturo’s reputation, include artists, architects and other Michelin-starred ), the refettorios show just how much can be done with what we throw away.

Food for Soul, together with Gastromotiva, another non-profit organization, opened Refettorio Gastromotiva, a community kitchen in the heart of Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympic Games. Other cities hosting refettorios include London, Paris, and Milan. There are rumblings that the organization will also open a site in America.

Social Tables are services offered once a week in pre-existing community spaces, where the nonprofit offers individuals and families experiencing social vulnerability and isolation, a healthy and nourishing weekly dinner service prepared with surplus ingredients, and a space to feel valued and heard. By involving chefs, food suppliers, artists and designers, Food for Soul hope to harness a local network of actors to create an inclusive and conscious community.

The third aspect of the organization’s program, The Learning Network was created with the idea of developing a community of operational partners and a creative space for open dialogue and the exchange of information. The long term vision is to develop this community into empowered actors, demonstrating transformative examples of equitable and inclusive programs designed to promote a just food ecosystem and advocate for the value of human potential.

Food for Soul’s impact to date is impressive. Since 2016, they have served more than 150,000 guests, cooked 450,000 dishes, harnessed the power of 830 volunteers and 340 guest chefs, and recovered 45 tons of food that would otherwise go to waste.

Outside of his restaurant and nonprofit, chef Bottura’s latest project focused on creating a whiskey to feed the hungry. To do that, he teamed up with Scotland-based distillery, The Dalmore, to craft a rare single malt called The Dalmore L’Anima, (anima meaning soul in Italian). Master distiller Richard Paterson selected whiskeys collaborated with Bottura in the kitchen to layer the whiskey with flavors reminiscent of his Italian cooking. The whiskey was auctioned off at Sotheby’s in an online sale running from April 25 through May 9, 2019, and sold for $140,000. The highest bidder also received a dinner for two at Osteria Francescana with all proceeds going directly to the nonprofit.

Awards and Honors: Throughout his career, Chef Bottura has been recognized for his achievements as a chef, creative, advocate and nonprofit leader. Here are a few examples of his achievements:

Chef Bottura has also written five books:

  • Aceto Balsamico (2005) Autoritratti in Cucina
  • Parmigiano Reggiano (2006), PRO
  • Attraverso tradizione e innovazione (2006)
  • Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef (2014) Phaidon Press
  • Bread is Gold (2017) Phaidon Press

Social Media

Massimo Bottura

Food for Soul

Interesting stories about Chef Bottura in online media:

Osteria Francescana Named ‘World’s Best Restaurant’
RedVisitor.Com Interviews Massimo Bottura
The Importance Of Finding Purpose In What You Do
In a High-Class Paris Neighborhood, a Star Chef Feeds the Homeless
Massimo Bottura interview: Dishing up food with real soul
Top Chef Massimo Bottura Makes 49-Year-Old Whisky to Fight Food Waste
Chef Massimo Bottura On Challenging Tradition And Combating
Massimo Bottura Has a New Project: Feeding America’s Poorest Communities
Massimo Bottura and his global movement to feed the hungry
Food fighter: Chef Massimo Bottura
Massimo Bottura, the Chef Behind the World’s Best Restaurant
Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura to open community restaurant for homeless in Sydney

Photo credit: Simon Owen Red Photography

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