Bottura: «Pull down the walls». The opening of Refettorio in London

The building fostering social inclusion desired by Food for Soul. Cerea, Ducasse, McHale, Mendes are to cook here...

Massimo Bottura with the vegetables for Refettori

Massimo Bottura with the vegetables for Refettorio in London (photoThe Felix Project)

Refettorio Felix, a project born thanks to the collaboration between Food for Soul, St Cuthbert'sThe Felix Project and London Food Month, completed its first day of service. The first chef to take his place in the brand new kitchen was Massimo Bottura. The Food for Soul founder created a menu starting from 50 boxes of extra ingredients that were handed in the morning by charity The Felix ProjectBottura transformed many different vegetables into a rich soup, followed by a pesto with breadcrumbs and an Earl Grey ice cream with biscuits, a tribute to the famous British tradition.

Work in progress at Refettorio, up to the final look. Photos by Simon Owen

Work in progress at Refettorio, up to the final look. Photos by Simon Owen

As many as 60 underprivileged and socially vulnerable guests were welcomed by a tireless team of volunteers in the new dining room. Designed by architect Charles Wainright and design firm StudioIlse, the dining room is a functional and welcoming space, enriched with plants, natural materials and luminous colours. It aims to become a point of reference for the entire community in the years to come. Refettorio Felix will be open indefinitely, serving lunch to those in need from Monday to Friday, from 12.30 to 2 pm. Every day, during the London Food Month, a guest chef will cook pro bono for the guests. Only this week, Refettorio will have Alain Ducasse, Enrico Cerea, Clare Smyth and Margot Henderson work in turn.

Plus Alberto Crisci (of non-profit The Clink Charity, see The Clink, the “good” prison), Angela Hartnett, Anna Hansen, Antonio Favuzzi, Ashley Palmer-Watts, Brett Graham, Bruno Loubet, Claude Bosi, Damian Clisby, Daniel Boulud, Douglas McMaster, Francesco Mazzei, Giorgio Locatelli, Isaac McHale, James Lowe, Jason Atherton, Jess Murphy, Jonny Lake (Executive Head Chef at The Fat Duck), Leandro Carreira, Lee Tiernan, Michel Roux Jr., Monica Galetti, Nuno Mendes (chef at Chiltern Firehouse), Oliver Peyton, Sat Bains, Roberto Ortiz (head chef at Lima) and Robbin Holmgren (head chef at Fifteen) have already made themselves available.

Right after the service, the official opening of Refettorio Felix took place. Some 120 guests participated. Presented by Tom Parker Bowles, creative director at the London Food Month, it had Richard Parker, president at St Cuthbert’s as the first speaker: «This is a very important day to us. We are truly honoured to be chosen to host this new project». Justin Byam Shaw, president at The Felix Project, shared a bright idea on food waste: «There’s enough food everywhere; but it’s not reaching the right people». And again: «Given the extraordinary quality and quality of exceeding food in this city, all marginalised Londoners should be able to eat what the rest of us gives for granted: a hot and nourishing meal. Let’s hope we can show London what you can do with food that would otherwise end up in the dump, by adding just a little imagination and generous spirit».

When asked why he chose St Cuthbert’sBottura replied: «I didn’t choose it, it chose me». Then the chef described Refettorio Felix as a project of inclusion: «At a time when people are raising walls, we’re pulling them down. Together we’ve built a beautiful place for the advantage of the entire community».

Speaking of restyling, Ilse Crawford commented: «Beauty has no bounds, it is a universal right». As for the canteen and the service, we’re not open to the public. You can visit Refettorio Felix during the week from 4 to 5 pm. Refettorio Felix will remain open as a culture, inspiration and social inclusion incubator, thanks to the essential help of four main sponsors: Westfield, Grundig, Lavazza and Felicetti, and of the technical partners: Aerende, Agnelli, Artemide, Bunker, Carpigiani, Giblor’s, Lassco, London Linen Group, Mutina&Domus, Pavoni, Royal Doulton, Wayward andWinnow. Individual donations can contribute to the cause in an equally substantial way. Just visit www.refettoriofelix.com

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This article is curated by Identità Golose, the publication that organises the international fine dining congress, publishes website www.identitagolose.com and the online Guida Identità Golose, on top of curating many other events in Italy and abroad

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