Chef Jeremy Charles of St. John's is in world-class company, featured in a new cookbook called Bread is Gold.

Charles is the executive chef and manager of Raymonds and the Merchant Tavern.

Last year, he and 45 of the world's top chefs were invited to Milan, Italy, for a cooking project with Massimo Bottura — one of the most highly regarded and awarded chefs in the world.  

Bottura gathered the world's top chefs together in Italy to come up with hearty meals made out of food waste from the World Food Expo, and feed Milan's homeless.

Trip of a lifetime

"I was super honoured," said Charles. "To fly to Milan and be a part of the project was unbelievable. [It was] one of the most amazing experiences.

"I've cooked in a lot of places around the world, but this was really inspiring. To cook for people who are not able to have a regular meal every day, it was very special."

The idea was simple, but challenging. Every morning, a truck would arrive at the communal dining room (or refettorio, as it's called in Italy) and be filled with food waste from the World Expo.

"I was super honoured...to fly to Milan and be a part of the project was unbelievable." - Jeremy Charles

"So basically, you were given these ingredients along with a pantry that was at the refettorio to cook a lunch and a dinner for 50-100 people," Charles said.

Every day the ingredients were different; Charles cooked using chicken, ground pork, and different types of fish.

"It was definitely a challenge to cook on your feet, but it was a beautiful way to cook," he said.

According to Charles, Bottura wanted to bring awareness to the amount of food that was going to waste, especially in Milan during the World Expo.

Jeremy Charles Bread is Gold

Chef Jeremy Charles holds a copy of Bread is Gold, a cookbook by Massimo Bottura featuring Charles and more of the world's top chefs. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"I think he really took it on himself to draw awareness to how we can use food waste to feed people who are unfortunate, and to really educate the public on how we need to be responsible to eat properly and not to waste food," Charles said.

Cooking up awareness

Wasting food is a huge problem around the world, including in Newfoundland and Labrador. Charles wants community leaders to step up and bring awareness to the amount of food going to waste in the province.

"A lot of our food comes from outside of the province these days on boats and trucks, and we rely on those things," he said.

"Grow your own vegetables … eat food in season … go to the grocery store maybe once every three days instead of once a week. Be really conscientious of what you're buying, and all the food that's going to the garbage."

In Milan, Charles said he and his colleagues were able to get creative and make meals that were delicious out of food that was destined for the trash.

"It wasn't a five-course tasting menu. It was just food that would feed the people and make them feel comfortable, and give them a lovely meal. That's what it was all about."

'He really took it on himself to draw awareness to how we can use food waste to feed people who are unfortunate.' - Jeremy Charles

All of the proceeds from Bread is Gold will go towards opening soup kitchens around the world. The project is also the subject of a documentary on Netflix called Theater of Life, which tells the story of several people who dined at the five-star refettorio in Milan.

"It tells how [the project] affected their lives and their story," Charles said.

"It's really enlightening, and a beautiful story that people should check out."

With files from Weekend AM