Massimo Bottura launches Refettorio Felix for London Food Month with Alain Ducasse
“People are building walls, this is a project of inclusion, we include people,” says an inspired Massimo Bottura from the stage of Refettorio Felix, launched today for London Food Month at St Cuthbert’s Centre.
“Already they’ve started to ask for chips!” So sighs one of the world’s greatest chefs, a twinkle in his eyes. Were it any other chef, you might consider the remonstration serious, here it is undercut by Bottura’s usual spark of infectious enthusiasm. The fact that diners have already found a voice is testament to the aptness with which they had taken to this remarkable idea.
A culture project, not a charitable one, is the message as the man behind Osteria Francescana opens his Refettorio Felix, with culinary legend Alain Ducasse as his first guest chef. The idea then is not just to help the hungry and the homeless and the disadvantaged that directly eat in this beautiful hall, but to make a wider impact. To transfer knowledge to the volunteers and give dignity to those in need. To show compassion, goodwill and unity in a manner that crosses borders, languages and classes. In an increasingly fractured Britain, its celebrated multiculturalism seemingly cut to shreds by religious, and political tribalism, such a project is sure to find support in droves.
After all, “people want to be generous.” That’s the foundation of Refettorio Felix and indeed Bottura’s larger Food for Soul project. Following the inauguration, a weekday lunch service will take surplus ingredients supplied by The Felix Project and transform them into restaurant-quality meals served to local guests from vulnerable social backgrounds. Dishes are provided in a transformed dining setting masterminded by architect Charles Wainwright and interior designer Ilse Crawford. Keeping the functionality of the space in mind, the studio used planting, fresh colours and natural materials to create a warm and homely space as an asset for the local community for years to come.
Lara Gilmore, president of Food for Soul and wife of chef Bottura, shares with us how food, beauty and design intertwine with the scope of involving a larger community that could make a change. A change that the couple saw during Expo 2015 and will turn also into a book, Bread Is Gold, to be released in November, featuring recipes from 65 chefs on how to make extraordinary meals out of ordinary ingredients
A star-studded cast will cook here on a daily basis, involving some of the biggest names in the industry including Angela Hartnett, Ashley Palmer-Watts, Brett Graham, Clare Smyth, Claude Bosi, Daniel Boulud, Isaac McHale, Francesco Mazzei, Giorgio Locatelli, James Lowe, Jason Atherton, Jonny Lake, Lee Tiernan, Michel Roux Jr, Monica Galletti, Nuno Mendes and Sat Bains.
Photos and videos: Filippo L’Astorina
Refettorio Felix is not open to the general public, everyone has the chance to take a tour during weekday visiting hours from 4-5pm. For further information visit here.