Robin Marchant / Stringer / Getty Images 

'Theater of Life' follows the Osteria Francescana chef's project to combat hunger and food waste at the same time.

Elisabeth Sherman
July 24, 2017

Massimo Bottura, the chef who runs what was named the best restaurant in the world in 2016 is on a new mission: Bottura wants to feed Italy’s homeless and hungry using food waste.

A new documentary called the Theater of Life explores how Bottura developed the original soup kitchen, or refettorio, which debuted at the Milan Expo in 2015. In the documentary’s trailer, Bottura is seen enlisting help from some of the best chefs in the world, including René Redzepi, Alain Ducasse, Daniel Humm, and Ferran Adrià, to cook at the Milan refettorio.

Through his non-profit organization Food for the Soul, the chef has been opening up refettorios not just in Italy, but all over the world. There are iterations of the project in London and Rio, and he hopes to soon open a new so-called community kitchen, where people in need are served gourmet meals from food waste, in the Bronx; he’s already received a grant of $650,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation to build at least two locations of his soup kitchen in America.   

In a recent profile for the Guardian, Bottura uses “Food…donated by a supermarket – whatever is close to its sell-by date, or misshapen or damaged,” as the ingredients for the meals prepared at the refettorios, which are then “transformed,” by the chef’s “mental palate.”

The refettorio in Milan now serves refugees, the homeless, and the sick, and Bottura hopes that the new location in London’s Earl Court neighborhood will also serve the same communities, a mission he thinks is especially important post-Brexit.

The mission of Bottura’s soup kitchens are not to be “utilitarian,” he explains to the Guardian. Instead, he hopes that people who are usually excluded from public spaces and fine restaurants, can find a moment of peace in the refettorio, where they can “enjoy the pleasure of a beautiful meal in a beautiful place.”

You can watch the rest of the story of Bottura’s refettorios on Netflix, where the documentary is now streaming.