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This restaurant transforms food waste into a gourmet menu

Posted on 18 September 2018.

Refettorio Paris opened on 15 March 2018 and serves delicious free meals to the most socially-vulnerable people. The meals are made by top chefs using surplus ingredients.

Massimo Bottura hopes to save 130kg of food a day.



A meal created by an award-winning chef being served to a homeless person is already somewhat unusual. But when you learn that the menu solely makes use of surplus ingredients, it is quite a feat! This feat has been achieved by Massimo Bottura, the man behind this highly original project.

The story began in Milan in 2015 when the Italian chef, who is the holder of three Michelin stars, was invited to consider the topic of the 2015 Milan Expo – Feeding the planet. The expo was an opportunity for him to convey his vision. In Bottura’s eyes, feeding the planet does not mean producing more, it means reducing food waste. And if this fosters social inclusion, so much the better!

And this is how the concept of Refettorio Paris came about. Refettorio Paris is a community kitchen in which the imagination of top chefs is harnessed to transform waste food (food that is not attractive enough to sell, unsold items, surplus etc) into a gourmet meal. A first project was launched on the outskirts of Milan in 2015, with Rio de Janeiro following hot on the heels in 2016, and then a third restaurant opening in London in 2017.


In the crypt of the church of La Madeleine

Refettorio Paris has set up shop in the crypt of La Madeleine, which has been home to a social restaurant since 1969. Every evening, from Monday to Friday, around 100 deprived people - selected by our partner organisations – take a seat and enjoy a no-waste menu – starter, main and dessert – totally free of charge.

The menu changes every day because the chefs have to create dishes with the unsold products delivered from major partner supermarkets such as Carrefour, Franprix and Metro. Fortunately, the resident kitchen team is brimming with ideas! The team is supported from time to time by renowned chefs who come to help out: Yannick Alléno, Hélène Darroze, Jean-François Piège and even Alain Ducasse, a French chef who is also the holder of three Michelin stars, and who created the opening night menu on 15 March 2018.

Massimo Bottura hopes to save 130kg of food a day in Paris with this system. Quite a feat, even if it is only a drop in the ocean of the 10 million of food wastes every year in France


Restoring dignity

With a cloakroom, table service and a warm welcome, at Refettorio Paris diners are treated as individuals regardless of their social status. Imagine a homeless person, migrant or unemployed person being served in the same way as a diner in a top restaurant…

Massimo Bottura aims to restore the dignity of the diners as well as giving them a good meal. He focuses on the quality of the food and the attractiveness of the setting in order to achieve this aim. La Madeleine’s two crypts were specially renovated and decorated for the restaurant opening: wooden arches illuminated by soft lighting, Philippe Starck lamps, photos by the artist JR on the walls…

Finally, a unique evening experience is repeated every night at Refettorio Paris thanks to this double stroke of genius: reducing food waste also helps to restore the dignity of people shunned by wider society. There is no doubt that Massimo Bottura deserves a fourth Michelin star for his efforts!