There has been a large amount of controversy about having the Olympic games in Rio this summer, as many believed that holding the games in a place with such poverty and inner turmoil would backfire. However, the games went on as planned. Thankfully, they have inspired some high-profile people to start philanthropic ventures that helps Rio’s less fortunate. For example, the celebrity chef Massimo Bottura has become determined to not let the massive amounts of leftover food from the Olympic games go to waste.
Bottura owns an award-winning restaurant in Modena, which is not exactly close to Rio. Nevertheless, he made the trip to the games and started repurposing leftover food from the Olympics into gourmet meals for the homeless. He got together together a team of chefs and started creating meals right away in a quickly-put-together kitchen space. All of the chefs, who have traveled from all over the world, are donating their time, just as ingredients are donated to the kitchen. They all worked to not only feed the homeless, but to change a little of how Rio regards human dignity. They wanted to exhibit social inclusion and sprinkle a little bit of hope into the lives of those who have none.
This little eatery has provided something of a refuge in Rio, whose inhabitants have been overrun by Olympic commercialization. They are made five-star meals with donated food and served in the venue. Different chefs choose the menu for each night. Interestingly enough, this is not Bottura’s first kitchen to reduce food waste and feed the less fortunate. It turns out, he has some sprinkled in other places.
About a year ago, for example, he opened one out of an abandoned theater in Milan. The one in Rio, however, was constructed in an empty lot that Bottura had to persuade the mayor to allow him to use while he was raising $250,000 for its construction. Rio was not exactly a welcoming place for these chefs, due to the aforementioned turmoil, but Bottura was somehow able to secure all of the supplies he needed for a real commercial kitchen.
This is not just a project for the Olympics, either. Bottura has leased the land that the mayor allowed him to use for 10 years, and he is determined to keep it sustainable. The benefits of his labor show every day when people enter the kitchen to dine. He meets so many inhabitants of Rio that are living on the streets, and have been for years, and rarely have enough to eat. Not only are the diners fed, but they are treated with courtesy and respect, which is a rare experience.
This form of philanthropy is perhaps one of the highest there is. I am excited to see where such a venture will lead.