As food lovers we are certainly conscious about the sourcing of our food, and both the environmental and ethical effects involved in its production (just think of all the ‘seasonal, British menus’ out there) but it’s all too easy for our awareness to stop the minute that last mouthful has been swallowed. The behind the scenes impact of food waste has been brought to light recently, with incredible initiatives like the wastED pop-up restaurant at Selfridges and Skye Gyngell’s Scratch menu at her Somerset House restaurant, Spring which uses leftovers in innovative ways to make creative menus for their discerning, hungry customers.
So what happens when you throw together a London food waste charity and one of the world’s best chefs? You get a pioneering community food kitchen, and a network of award-winning culinary names all wanting to do their bit to make a difference. Massimo Bottura is the man behind Refettorio Felix, a kitchen opening for service in London on 5th June in partnership with Acton-based food-waste charity, The Felix Project, and Massimo’s own not-for-profit organisation, Food for Soul. His restaurant, Osteria Francescana, in Italy’s Modena, has 3 Michelin stars and has just been named #2 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants so Massimo is no stranger to innovation. You only have to watch his Chef’s Table documentary on Netflix to get an insight into his world and how his brain works, but running a kitchen is a big task for one man so he’s called up more than 30 leading British and international chefs to assist. Alain Ducasse, Claude Bosi, Michel Roux Jr. and Clare Smyth are just a handful of those getting involved, from big-name restaurants including Chiltern Firehouse, The Fat Duck and Lima. Between them, they possess an incredible 40 Michelin stars (that’s, on average, 1.3 per person) so chances are you’ll see more than vegetable soup on the menu…
As exciting as it sounds, Refettorio Felix is not for the general public. Instead, the homeless and other vulnerable groups will be welcomed into a dignified dining space to enjoy their meal with quality tableware, restaurant-standard service and interiors by a leading interior designer. No paper plates or buffet-style trays in sight – wellbeing and social inclusion are as much a consideration as the nutrition of the food itself and whilst it is in town for the duration of June’s London Food Month, the legacy will last much longer than the 2000 meals it hopes to serve. Meals will continue to be served by two resident chefs and a guest chef each month, with the community space transformed to engage the local community through social entrepreneurship programmes, events and workshops.
If you want a taste of Massimo’s cooking you’ll have to plan a trip to Italy, but it’s easy to show your support closer to home by volunteering with The Felix Project, making a financial donation or, if you’re a supermarket or wholesaler, donating surplus food. It’s an amazing cause and one we all need to get involved with.
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Written by: Fran Hazell