At Refettorio Bread is gold

The soup-kitchen experience in Greco during Expo 2015 relives in a book by Bottura. The new Artusi in 150 dishes

Bread is gold. This was also the lesson during Ide

Bread is gold. This was also the lesson during Identità Milano 2015, when Massimo Bottura recovered old bread in a gold bin to give importance to food waste

A book published in English by Phaidon and in Italian by L’ippocampo perfectly sums up the three-year-long journey. Bread is gold celebrates six months at Refettorio Ambrosiano – still open – in Milan, during Expo 2015, from May to October, when Massimo Bottura asked over 60 colleagues to cook in what was once the church theatre in Greco, in the northern outskirts of Milan.

Abandoned and forgotten, it turned out to be the perfect solution for the chef from Modena and for creative and resourceful gastronomist Davide Rampello who were looking for a space where they could serve meals made with food waste from the World Fair. The latter had the initial idea from which everything began. From the introduction signed by the patron at Osteria Francescana: «Davide pointed out that what he was imagining was not a pavilion, but a refectory, the place where for centuries monks and nuns have shared their meals. He told me the word “refettorio” comes from the Latin reficere, which means rebuilding, as well as refreshing»

A few days later, Caritas Ambrosiana showed its interest for the refectory. One more week and an exceptional person appeared, Don Giuliano, the parish priest of two churches in Greco, which is not exactly the most posh place in Milan. Bottura: «As I was driving under the railway, I realised that the way we think of food waste is similar to the way we imagine the outskirts of a metropolis: we push waste away from our sight» and our life.

The theatre suddenly appeared in front of his eyes: «Don Giuliano opened the doors and exclaimed: “What’s best than a theatre for a refectory? What goes on stage is the drama in life, after all. Everything is in this drama: life and death, joy as well as desperate moments”».

The priest had a contagious enthusiasm, and so did Bottura. While Expo opened on the 1st of May, they had to wait one month for Refettorio Ambrosiano. The first service was on the 28th, with Daniel Humm in the kitchen. Swiss roots and a long life first in San Francisco and then in New York. At the time, they could not foresee that within a year, the Italian would win the World’s 50 Best Restaurant in 2016, and in two years’ time, Humm would do the same. Their relationship goes beyond. Massimo writes: «I heard Lara [Gilmore, Mrs Bottura] say: “You know, when he first told me about this project I had strong doubts he could make it, but he’s a passionate man: when he speaks you’d think he’s just chatting, but it’s all true. And it’s something incredible”».

Bottura sees reality beyond dreams and now that epic lives again in a book with 150 recipes that left an unimaginable mark: they are all simple everyday dishes, but not in the meaning these super-chefs usually intend. They cook all sorts of things, debone a quail with the ease we use in opening a bottle of barbera. Moments of everyday life that are poured into a recipe.

Bread is gold is a dessert that starts from crumbs fallen on a tablecloth as well as stale bread, from the memories of the chunks of old bread the Bottura kids would compete for, and then dip into milk in the morning. It’s about all the «don’t waste anything, food cannot be wasted. There are people starving out there» that grandparents would often repeat, and which only seemingly refers to poverty. Instead, it’s a question of respect for those less lucky.

The book has a good subtitle: Extraordinary meals with ordinary ingredients. It’s signed by Massimo Bottura & Friends. «Here’s the new Artusi». A final note: all the proceedings will go to Food for Soul, the foundation created by Massino and Lara to promote and support refectories all over the world: «These dishes can change the way in which we feed the planet. Because anyone can cook them, wherever and regardless of their budget».
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

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Paolo Marchi


Paolo Marchi

born in Milan in March 1955, at Il Giornale for 31 years dividing himself between sports and food, since 2004 he's the creator and curator of Identità Golose.
blog www.paolomarchi.it
instagram instagram.com/oloapmarchi

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