The first supper at Refettorio

The project for the poor created by Massimo Bottura debuts tonight. The press conference

The press conference this morning at Refettorio Am

The press conference this morning at Refettorio Ambrosiano, in Piazza Greco 11, in the northeast suburbs of Milan. Left to right: Luciano Gualzetti (vice director of Caritas Ambrosiana), Giuseppe Sala (Expo commissioner),Massimo Bottura (chef at Osteria Francescana in Modena), the Archbishop of Milan Angelo Scola, don Davide Milani, (social communication manager for the Diocese) and Davide Rampello (director of Padiglione Zero at Expo). Tonight there’s the first supper of this project that aims at feeding the poor, and not only until 31st October. Entrance is forbidden to journalist

Little over a year ago the first announcement at Refettorio Ambrosiano arrived. And tonight, at last, the old theatre in Piazza Greco in Milan, which was then transformed into a beautiful canteen, will welcome 96 people in need. The guests, distributed over 12 tables each seating 8 people, will have a meal cooked with the food left over from the Expo pavilions and beyond. This will happen until 31st October, under the direction of a series of great chefs from all around the world, summoned by Massimo Bottura.

Most of all, and we believe it was the most important thing to emerge during the press conference this morning, the project is designed to outlive Expo, «As long as I will survive», joked Giuseppe Sala, commissioner for the World Fair and one of the first supporters of this project, who came to explain in person, together with many other important people, all the details about Refettorio.

The entrance to Refettorio Ambrosiano next to the parish church of San Martino in Greco

The entrance to Refettorio Ambrosiano next to the parish church of San Martino in Greco

The word first goes to the chef from Modena, who has silently worked to accomplish this 13-month-long dream: «I believe the sparkles behind Refettorio Ambrosiano are two: culture and memory. From here we get to the sense of responsibility, which must lead us to scream that it is unconceivable for the world to waste 1.3 billion tons of food every year. I don’t even know how many zeros it includes. I only know that one quarter of these wastes would be enough to feed all those who are less fortunate». «Even a breadcrumb with milk and a little sugar», he said recalling the lesson given at Identità Milano last February, «can become gold».

As for the birth of the project: «In 45 minutes I called all the chefs in the world: almost all of them said yes before letting me finish. On 14th July, on the anniversary of the siege of the Bastilles, Alain Ducasse will come to interpret stale bread, with passatelli that make the invisible visible. The other day I brought Daniel Humm here: he left with tears in his eyes. France promoted a law to avoid wastes. Gaston Acurio wants to bring the same project to the poorest neighbourhoods in Lima. These are concrete things. It is in this way that the seeds of hope can sprout and develop». Don Milani jokes: «Blessed be the last if Bottura is cooking the first course». The chef smiles: «We’re not here to cook or give a lesson; we’re here to fight waste».

L'ingresso del Refettorio Ambrosiano, accanto alla parrocchia di San Martino in Greco

L'ingresso del Refettorio Ambrosiano, accanto alla parrocchia di San Martino in Greco

It is the turn of Davide Rampello, director of Padiglione Zero at Expo and a great supporter of Refettorio: «When Massimo first told me about this project, we immediately thought about creating something that could last, that would become rooted in the civil spirit of this city, an example. We wanted to build something that would be beautiful in the most authentic meaning of this word: supportive and generous. We transformed a theatre into a refettorio, not a simple canteen. Reficere means “get even”, it has a nobler origin: it means feeding oneself in every way, intellectually and spiritually».

He then thanks all those who have contributed in the project: «Aldo Civice, Antonio Citterio, Alessandro Mendini, Franco Rigoni – to whom we owe the Refettorio brand -, Matteo Thun, Piero Lissoni, Giulio Iacchetti, Mimmo Palladino, Enzo Cucchi – whom we owe the ‘No more excuses’ sign, Artemide, Lavazza for the kitchens, Carpigiani who will make ice cream with bruised fruit. Enzo Manes who gave us the copper for this marvellous hood, Acqua Panna and S. Pellegrino for the logistic support…». While in the audience, chefs Alessandro Negrini of Aimo e Nadia and Andrea Berton, who will participate in the Refettorio programme, applaud.

A very crowded press conference, despite the discretion on the eve of the day

A very crowded press conference, despite the discretion on the eve of the day

And again, Giuseppe Sala: «Expo is many things put together, none is perfect, all are coherent. On this very day, in Rho, we have the world’s most important ministers for agriculture. With Refettorio Ambrosiano we move from theory to practice». We close with more details on the project, fully explained by Luciano Gualzetti, vice-director of Caritas Ambrosiana: «All we have in this world should be shared, especially food. There’s enough for everybody but not everybody has access to it. We have already recuperated 3 tons of raw materials and a large part of these will be directed here».

Refettorio will not be a showcase for chefs but will have an educational scope: «Chefs will discover the ingredients only upon arriving in the kitchen, not earlier. It is a challenge. Most of all, chefs must teach their colleagues from co-op Farsi prossimo how to continue afterwards. Among the other goals of this project, which is also supported by the 8 per mille funds to the Catholic Church, there’s that of giving back a good to the neighbourhood: there will be cultural events and guided visits so that people can also enjoy the works of the great artists who supported it». Mayor Giuliano Pisapia nods («Healthy food must be a right for everyone. Let me thank Don Giuliano, the parish priest at San Martino in Greco, for his great commitment») and the archbishop of Milan Angelo Scola: «Refettorio Ambrosiano is a brilliant work because it makes poverty and beauty meet».


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