Montreal chefs join Massimo Bottura to fight food waste

Famed Italian chef Massimo Bottura visited Montreal to expand a low-waste campaign he launched in Milan.

Cooks share tips for more economical, environmental cuisine and recipes

Famed Italian chef Massimo Bottura launched his waste reduction campaign in October, when he began using the food waste from Expo Milan to run a local soup kitchen. (CBC)

Montreal's top chefs are teaming up with world-renowned chef Massimo Bottura to combat food waste. 

Bottura, an Italian cook, activist, and owner of Osteria Francescana  — one of the highest-ranked restaurants in the world — launched his waste reduction campaign at Expo Milan in October. 

He helped open Refettorio Ambrosiano, a soup kitchen in the Greco neighbourhood of Milan that used the food waste from the Expo to provide meals for refugees and the homeless.

The campaign sparked international interest. Now, Bottura is in Montreal expanding the initiative to include chefs from all around the globe.

'Not just about a soup kitchen'

"We try to involve all the best chefs in the world, to get together with them, share these ideas, and build the future by fighting waste," Bottura said. "To build a better future, to build dignity, because it's not just about a soup kitchen." 

Winter Russell, a chef at Montreal's Candide restaurant, participated in the Expo Milan event with Bottura. He said he felt overwhelmed by the amount of food that was wasted. 

Local chef Russell Winter says that many people have misconceptions about food waste. (CBC News)

"You arrive in the morning and a truck arrives and that's the trash from Expo Milan, and it's beautiful food," Russell said.

"We made a dessert of golden prunes and it was magical. The grocery store had brought too many, and they had thrown out those that had even tiny bruises on them — and there were cases of them."

'Respect the ingredients'

Russell said that many people have misconceptions about food waste, thinking that it refers to food that is rotten or unfit to be consumed.

However, he says that much of the food we throw out is rejected for aesthetic reasons that don't affect the flavour or nutritional value.

Antonio Park, a chef at Restaurant Park and Lavanderia who joined in Bottura's workshop, explained that the benefits of low-waste cooking are not only environmental, but also economic. 

"For a restaurant it's essential not to waste," Park said. "You have to be open to the idea of using everything."

He summed up what he learned from Bottura with two tips: "respect the ingredients, and share your knowledge with other chefs and the next generation."

Montreal chefs learn from Bottura at Montreal's Phi Center. (CBC News)

The results of the chefs' collaboration were showcased at Montreal's Phi Centre. Proceeds from the event, where a meal could cost up to $300, will finance other low-waste soup kitchens.

Bottura also plans to open a new soup kitchen at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.