Top Italian chef to open canteen for the homeless in Paris

Italian chef Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana was named the world's best restaurant last year.
Italian chef Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana was named the world's best restaurant last year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Top Italian chef Massimo Bottura, whose Osteria Francescana was named the world's best restaurant last year, is in talks to open a community kitchen in Paris that would serve the homeless and other people in need.

"Discussions are under way to set up a canteen in the basement of the Madeleine Church," Mr Jean-Francois Rial, chief executive of the group Voyageurs du Monde, said on Thursday. "It is still just a project. Nothing is done, but discussions have been positive with the association" that manages the existing restaurant in the church.

For more than 40 years, the Foyer de la Madeleine has been serving lunch for about €9 (S$14.40) on weekdays in the vaulted basement of the church.

But people in need pay just €1.

Bottura, along with Mr Rial and French artist JR, is piloting the project under his Food For Soul nonprofit organisation, which fights food waste and social exclusion.

About one-third of the food produced worldwide each year, around 1.3 billion tonnes, is wasted or lost, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Borne out of an initial project in Milan in 2015, Bottura created his first canteen during the city's expo, with international chefs cooking meals for free from surplus ingredients and serving them to the homeless and other disadvantaged people.

Since then, the group has opened a number of canteens in Italy and, recently, rolled out a project in London too. The project in Paris, if successful, would open some time in March and would serve between 70 and 90 people every night.

"It will not be a soup kitchen, but high-quality cuisine, made by chefs trained by French starred chefs", who will whip up meals from unsold ingredients, Mr Rial said.

Set in the heart of Modena in northern Italy, Osteria already boasted three Michelin stars before it snapped up first prize at the World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards in June last year - thanks to a creative cuisine that reinvents Italian traditional dishes. It charges about €250 a head.

Bottura has another "recipe" to help those in need.

He is offering a chance - for US$25,000 (S$33,410) - to spend a day with him biking around Modena, going to the town's Mercato Albinelli market to shop for food and having lunch at Osteria.

The money will support a non-profit food organisation called Mad, founded by Noma co-owner Rene Redzepi.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2017, with the headline 'Top Italian chef to open canteen for the homeless in Paris'. Print Edition | Subscribe