The Italian hero came to High Road House to give our chefs a cooking demonstration and the lowdown on his new project in the city
While he may hold three Michelin stars, Massimo Bottura is not only interested in cooking for restaurant inspectors. For the past two years he has helped feed the hungry in Milan, Rio and, now, London.
To mark the opening of his latest “Refettorio” community kitchen, in Earl’s Court, the chef has created a special dish to be served at Cafe Monico throughout June 2017.
The fusilli with breadcrumb pesto is the first signature recipe that Bottura has donated to another restaurant and £4 from every dish will be donated to his non-profit organisation Food for Soul, feeding the homeless and socially vulnerable.
He also made our London chefs very happy by running a cooking demonstration at High Road House, preparing his dish, talking about Food For Soul and offering tips.
“It was really inspiring to see the way Chef Massimo worked and the passion he had for the project,” says Alex Farrey, head chef of Cafe Monico, who attended the session. “Although we come from very different cooking environments, the skills and techniques he showed us were definitely useful and transferable. I brought along my Italian sous chef and it was a really great moment for him, basically meeting his childhood hero.”
Using simple ingredients including fresh basil, thyme and mint, breadcrumbs, anchovies and extra virgin olive oil, the dish of fusilli with breadcrumb pesto utilises produce that may otherwise be leftover. “I think Massimo Bottura is probably the only guy who can tell an Italian that he’s changed the recipe for pesto and get away with it,” says Alex Farrey. “It’s basically a simple pesto but elevated by the texture and flavour of the anchovy and the lightness of the pesto, which uses breadcrumbs rather than pine nuts, making it far less oily.”
The world-famous chef also told our team a little more about the project the proceeds from his dish would be supporting. “What differentiates a Refettorio from a soup kitchen is our way of serving a meal. Guests are invited to sit at communal tables and volunteers serve them a full meal,” he says. “I wholeheartedly believe that there is more value in a meal shared at the table together than a meal eaten alone. The social part of the experience is a kind of therapy that is good for everyone – guests, volunteers and chefs.”
More than 30 of London’s top chefs, including Monica Galetti, Alain Ducasse, Michel Roux Jr, Brett Graham, Angela Hartnett, Daniel Boulud, Lee Tiernan and Nuno Mendes have volunteered to work a shift at the kitchen, which plans to provide more than 2,000 meals to the homeless using 50 tonnes of recovered food.
Asked why he chose London to open his third Refettorio, Bottura explained that, “London is a city full of challenges and inequalities: food waste is rampant, and there are growing concerns about food poverty and social isolation.” Believing that there was a real opportunity for Food for Soul to make a difference in London, Bottura added that “at a time when people are building walls, we can break them down”.
For Alex Farrey and his very excited Italian sous chef, the takeaway message hit home. “He told us it’s not just about feeding people but creating a bit of joy and beauty for people to enjoy.”
Massimo Bottura’s fusilli with breadcrumb pesto is on the menu at Cafe Monico throughout June and donations for Food For Soul are also being collected at Electric Diner, High Road Brasserie, Dean Street Townhouse, Hoxton Grill and Hubbard & Bell