Massimo Bottura and Alex Atala create kitchen alchemy

Trash-bound ingredients take on a whole new life in The Skinny Italian chef's Bread is Gold book
Chicken on sticks with soy sauce and popcorn, as reproduced in Bread is Gold
Chicken on sticks with soy sauce and popcorn, as reproduced in Bread is Gold

In terms of culinary missionary zeal, Massimo Bottura certainly met his match in the Brazilian chef Alex Atala. Atala had worked with chef and social activist David Hertz on various projects, including one training women in Brazilian prisons to cook. When invited to the Refettorio, Massimo's Milanese soup kitchen that turns unwanted ingredients into incredible food for the poor, Atala was bursting with evangelical enthusiasm for spreading the message about cutting food waste.

As Massimo explains in his new book Bread is Gold, Atala cooked both a charity dinner, and a lunch service on the preceeding day for a group of teenagers. First, he cajoled the kids into eating anchovies in a tomato sauce, despite the revulsion they expressed at the fish. He told them they were so abundant because they never missed an opportunity to reproduce. Eventually, the youngsters cleaned their plates. He also came up with a tasty take on chicken satay, adding popcorn to the mix. Then, he challenged the kids on taboos surrounding meat eating.


Alex Atala at the Refettorio. As featured in Bread is Gold
Alex Atala at the Refettorio. As featured in Bread is Gold

Clutching armfuls of styrofoam meat packaging, he asked them how they might have felt if he had killed a pig or a chicken in front of them? They bridled, but, as he explained, their grandparents had no such qualms and, moreover, respected the animals they slaughtered by using every last edible part of them. In a world in which 30 per cent of our food goes in the garbage, his educational, as well as cooking skills, are invaluable, even if they’re not for the squeamish.


Bread is Gold

Check back soon for further tales of gastronomic alchemy courtesy of Massimo and his fellow world-famous chefs; you can read about the strawberry gazpacho Daniel Humm conjured out of food waste here; and to recreate the recipes and learn more about the ideas behind the Refettorio order a copy of Bread is Gold here.

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