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The world's top-rated chef is serving salvaged food to the needy in Rio

Posted August 13

Massimo Bottura, famous for his signature style of creating artistic and conscientious dishes, will offer free meals to those in need during the Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

The world-renowned chef and possible associate of Robert De Niro is working with 30 other Michelin-rated chefs to provide meals for residents of Rio who may be impacted by the summer games, according to Eater.

The Refettorio Gastromotiva, which opened on Aug. 9, will seat 108 people and will serve dinner to hungry residents of the Lapa neighborhood daily. The team of chefs plan to serve more than 5,000 three-course meals over the course of the summer.

Because the chefs will have different ingredients available each day, there will not be a set menu. But according to Bottura's wife, Lara Gilmore, he is "very interested in creating recipes with leftover bread, so perhaps a pasta such as passatelli made with breadcrumbs in a broth of 'everything,' or a dessert ... based on a milk and breadcrumb dessert from Massimo’s childhood."

And because the Brazilian government granted Bottura the space for the next decade, the Refettorio will remain open after the Olympics. Bottura plans to turn the space into a culinary school where money earned from lunch guests will go toward paying for dinner for the poor in the area. It will also offer workshops on nutritional cooking and reducing food waste, one of the chef's passion projects, Eater reports.

"We, contemporary chefs, are going to think at least for one day as our grandmothers did," Bottura told Eater. "We want to explain to the world what is possible to do with an overripe banana, an ugly tomato or with bread crumbs."

This isn't the first time Bottura has battled food waste.

He conducted a similar "cultural experiment" in 2015 at the Expo Milano. Using more than 15 tons of abandoned food, Bottura turned an abandoned theater into a soup kitchen for the homeless and refugees in the area. He prepared an estimated 10,000 meals.

And when he's not opening pop-up soup kitchens around the world or running his non-profit organization Food for Soul, Bottura is the owner and head chef of Osteria Francescana — which was recently voted number one among the World's 50 Best Restaurants — in Modena, Italy.

But if you haven't been able to reserve a table at his award-winning restaurant, you may have also seen him on the Netflix original show "Chef's Plate."

In his episode, Bottura speaks about using food damaged by earthquakes to make gourmet dishes for his patrons.

Using damaged wheels of cheese and bags of rice, Bottura invented his own — very cheesy — style of risotto that utilized both ingredients and garnered global praise for both its flavor and impact.

“On that day, 40,000 people were eating risotto," Bottura said, "All the wheels were sold and no one lost a job. It was a recipe as a social gesture.”

Bottura also recounts shocking his more bourgeois diners by serving a sparse rendition of an Italian classic. The dish, called Tortellini Walking into Broth, featured only six tortellini per plate, despite traditional plates serving "10 tortellini to a spoonful."

Future projects for Boturra include opening more Refetterios in Montreal, Berlin, Modena and in the Bronx, New York.

While there is little information available about his Bronx project, Bottura did post a photo on Instagram with De Niro — whom he casually calls Bob — saying it could be up and running by 2017.

Email: sweber@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @sarapweber

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