Respected Italian Chef Feeds Olympians Leftovers to Rio’s Poor

Kitchen backstage; International Gourmet Festival 2012; Tribute to Claudia 2012; Day 11 - January 22nd; Massimo Bottura

*As the world rests its eyes on the Games of the XXXI Olympiad  in Rio de Janeiro this year, a group of about 70 homeless men are being treated to a three-course meal of Ossobuco with buttery baroa potatoes topped off with a gelato dessert.

No its not a typo. It’s actually a very noble gesture.

The food comes courtesy of one of the world’s renowned chefs, Massimo Bottura, who had the beautifully humanistic idea to feed the poverty-stricken towns’ homeless and hungry the leftover food from the athletes.

The food would have otherwise been thrown away.

And let’s get an idea of what that would look like.

In excess of 230 tons of food is supplied daily to prepare 60,000 meals for athletes, coach and staff.

Bottura, 53, decided to use his heart, head and skillset to make a statement saying, “This is a cultural project, not a charity. We want to rebuild the dignity of the people.”

Massimo Bottura
Massimo Bottura

The cost of presenting the first ever Olympics in South America is a staggering $12 million dollars.

Bottura says he was inspired by the advocacy for the poor displayed by Pope Francis, and wanted to utilize the ingredients that were used by the Olympics caterers and local partners to create “Refettorio Gastromotiva,” a gourmet soup kitchen, that has been feeding the less fortunate in the Brazilian city for the past week.

Cooks prepare a dinner for gourmet soup kitchen, Refettorio Gastromotiva in Rio de Janeiro
Cooks prepare a dinner for gourmet soup kitchen, Refettorio Gastromotiva in Rio de Janeiro

One of the benefactors, Fagner dos Santos, a 33-year-old homeless man who has been battling drug addiction since living on the streets is elated at not only the food, but the presentation.

“Who would’ve thought food made for the cream of society would be served to a group of homeless men?” dos Santos said, as he admired the spacious, art-filled dining room and waiters wearing smart orange aprons.

Here the chef prepares one of his custom meals.

As we stay glued to the beauty of the games themselves, or sound bites and updates on the athletes’ performances, some social media posts have also referred to the Rio that WON’T be shown on TV. Such as the one in this VOX video that provides a 3D tour of the city’s Favelas — built by slaves in the 1800s and by appearance, are communities where the houses look as if they are stacked on top of each other.

Favelas were created with no input from public authority; so there is no zoning, building codes or public services. They are, as the narrator of the video states, home to some of the most vicious drug dealers as well as some of the most creative people in Rio. The narrator shows how the haves people of the asphalt and have nots people of the hill (the favelas) live different lives.


As reported in the Chicago Sun-Times article, for the Olympics launch, Bottura assembled a tour de force of local and international celebrity chefs. Once the games are over, the project will morph into a lunchtime restaurant, proceeds of which will fund evening meals for the homeless.

Kudos to you, Chef Bottura!

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