Milan, refettorio Ambrosiano. Every year, in Italy alone, food valued at 8.7 billion euros are thrown in the garbage. For chef Massimo Bottura the issue of food wastage needed to be addressed with action. He initiated an off-site project in line with Expo’s theme Feed the Planet; Energy for Life with a new model for a soup kitchen where meals could be prepared for the neediest residents of the neighborhood with the waste generated from Expo. The catholic church donated Teatro Greco, an abandoned theatre from the 1930s, and after a 6-month renovation guided by Pavilion Zero director Davide Rampello and Massimo Bottura, it became a light-filled space equipped with a professional kitchen and an ample room for 96 guests.
Generous donations from Milan’s most renowned designers, architects and furniture companies assured that the dining hall would serve not only to feed the body but also to nourish the soul. Italian artists Carlo Benvenuto, Mimmo Palladino, Gaetano Pesce and Enzo Cucchi contributed to the project with site-specific artwork for the Refettorio. No More Excuses, a neon sign by artist Maurizio Nannucci lining the exterior of the building, became the theme of the months that followed. Massimo Bottura invited over 60 world-class guest chefs, among which Mario Batali, Alain Ducasse, Gastón Acurio, and René Redzepi, to visit the Refettorio and share their ideas and recipes so to work with re-purposed ingredients from potato peels to day old bread.
During the 5 months of Expo, 15 tons of food waste were transformed into delicious, healthy and seasonal meals that provided lunch for neighboring children and evening meals for the numerous homeless shelters in the area. Fortunately, the Refettorio Ambrosiano project does not end there. Under the governance of Caritas Ambrosiana, it continues to run a community kitchen for nearby homeless shelters, cooking with a daily supply of supermarket waste. The space also serves the local community as a cultural center for