Massimo Bottura, the chef and co-proprietor of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, needs no introduction. His restaurant has won every award given by the culinary world. If you want a reservation at his restaurant you have to book months ahead, and they can be as difficult to get as an audience with the Pope. However, he is now using his fame and influence to tackle, and hopefully solve, two of the world’s biggest problems namely hunger and food waste.
This book, Bread Is Gold, is the story of the start of that journey, which has led to the opening of several projects across the world and the foundation of the “Food For Soul” charity. Despite what you might think from the title, this is not a book about baking, it contains over 150 delicious recipes made from food that would otherwise be discarded.
Currently one third of the food that is produced globally is wasted. Many famous traditional recipes were born out of necessity, using food that will have been left over from previous meals. Massimo’s idea was to show that, as Italians know well, “salvaged food, overripe or bruised and beyond expiration dates, as well as scraps and trimmings that otherwise would be thrown away, were not only edible, but even delicious. Cooking with ingredients that otherwise would have been thrown away draws out the resourcefulness of a cook, any cook.”
The title of the book, and the story that it tells, stems from his earliest childhood food memory. As he says in the book “Every morning over breakfast my brothers and I fought for the leftover pieces of bread from the previous night to dip in warm milk with a splash of coffee. We called this mess zuppa di latte, milk soup… Then, to my delight, I poured in the sugar, lots of it, until my mother started yelling, “Massimooooo — that’s too much sugar!” She loved to tell this story to strangers with the additional comment, “And look at him now — a famous cook!” . A version of this is now served in his restaurant using the same ingredients, and is his signature dish.
In 2015, Bottura established Refettorio Ambrosiano, a community soup kitchen, to coincide with the Milan Expo. The idea to call it a refettorio, is that it comes the Latin word reficere, which means to rebuild or to restore. He asked leading Italian designers and artists to help him turn an abandoned theatre in a disadvantaged suburb in Milan into an inviting space where disadvantaged and underprivileged guests could feed both their body and soul. He also invited over 60 of his chef friends, such as Daniel Humm, Mario Batali, René Redzepi, Alain Ducasse, Joan Roca, Enrique Olvera, Ferran & Albert Adrià and Virgilio Martínez to cook at the Refettorio throughout the run of the Expo.
Each visiting chef prepared three-course meals out of surplus ingredients from the Expo, markets delivered every morning to Refettorio Ambrosiano.
One thing to note is that not only is this the story of the first six months of the project, including contributions and memories from the many world famous chefs that helped Massimo realise his vision, but is also full of over 150 recipes that were created during that time using ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste, including fish soup with bread gnocchi, banana peel chutney, burnt lime stew, strawberry gazpacho, honey and toasted millet ice cream.
After reading this book you will think again about throwing away that piece of day old bread, or other odds and ends, because this book will show you how even the home cook can be more resourceful with “waste” ingredients. As Bottura says in the book “These dishes could change the way we nourish the planet, because they can be cooked by anyone, anywhere, at any budget. To feed the planet, you first have to fight the waste.”
All images copyright Phaidon.