I like to call it reverse colonial imperialism…the culinary kind.
For over two hundred years the British ruled over us and now we have colonised their taste buds. Here in London, the latest to receive a double honour is the world’s oldest surviving Indian restaurant. Veeraswamy turned 90 together with the Queen and was invited to cater for a banquet in the Buckingham Palace (for a second time.) We have heard it is the only restaurant ever been invited to cater for the Queen’s party in her own home. So when the golden hearted superachiever banker couple Deepak Parekh and Smita Parekh invited me for dinner to the highly awarded trailblazing restaurateurs Namita and Camellia Panjabi’s Veeraswamy, I dropped everything to dine in the elegantly modern Maharajah like room. We luxuriated in the flavours and textures of the Royal cuisines which retained their authenticity and yet had a contemporary swagger. A treat fit for a king…and queen!
Here in this definitive showcase of London’s latest and most exciting restaurants, India is shining. In the lush and sprawling Regents park the bi annual “Taste of London” has awarded the seven month old “Jamavar” restaurant the “Best of Taste” award. This fine dine Indian restaurant has been wowing London with Chef Rohit Ghai’s menu which serves up delights from the Royal kitchens of the North and South Indian fare too. Cyrus and Pervin Todiwalas Café Spice Namaste (London’s 22 year old popular restaurant) is drawing crowds. The Todiwalas also continue to raise funds for the needy, support sustainability and fight food waste. It’s a delight to catch up with my old friends and rockstars of the culinary world and to meet the Michelin starred Luigi Taglienti of Lume Milano too. Most of all it’s the flavour of India that thrills. Be it the brilliant young Samyukta Nair’s “Jamawar” or the Todiwala’s “café Spice Namaste” which hosts “khadrass or the Greedy pigs club”, a Gourmet showcase for India’s Parsi heritage. Indeed a yum “Taste of India” in the “Taste of London”.
No two ways about it. This is the worlds most awesome restaurant. Here’s a restaurant where the worlds greatest chefs fly in from all over the world, to volunteer and cook ONLY for the homeless and the vulnerable. And to do so they use waste materials. This is it. The ultimate and most heart-touching and transformative use of gastronomy. It takes within it’s sweep a fight against food waste in support of social inclusion, feeding the homeless and the vulnerable. It’s a non-profit organisation, its aptly named “Food for Soul” and is founded by one of the worlds greatest, most brilliant chefs Massimo Bottura whose mindblowing “Osteria francescana” was judged the worlds best restaurant last year. Lara and Massimo Bottura are blessed alchemists and their non-stop dedication to this selfless work is truly awesome. “Chefs have risen to celebrity heights,” Chef Bottura commented. “I believe we, chefs, can reflect these lights to illuminate the most pressing issues facing society today. Cooking is a call to act.” And sure enough they are using this in many amazing ways to change the world. I could write a book on those, but due to space constraint have to limit myself to Food for Soul today.
THE AWESOME COMMUNITY KITCHEN
It’s a privilege and a blessing. I came to London, only to be able to volunteer as a part-time waitress in Lara and Massimo Bottura’s truly noble and innovative “Food For Soul”. They’ve set up this community kitchen and restaurant Refettorio Felix to provide lunch from Monday toFriday for the homeless and other vulnerable groups from surplus produce supplied by The Felix Project. The aim is to serve more than 2,000 meals using five tonnes of recovered food. The community kitchen is based on Food for Soul’s highly successful Refettorios established in Milan and Rio de Janeiro opened during the 2016 Olympic Games.
It was a great experience to be in the beautiful and elegant Refettorio felix. It was set up in St Cuthbert’s Centre in Earl’s Court the historic community space underwent an ambitious six-week makeover by Charles Wainwright and Ilse Crawford. It is a beautiful space infused with art and design and it brings a new sense of dignity to the table, showing how aesthetics and ethics go hand in hand.
More than 30 leading British and international chefs have already accepted the call to action from Massimo Bottura to cook in the Refettorio. Michelin starred chefs Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Jamie Oliver, Ashley Palmer-Watts, Jason Atherton, Monica Galetti, Nuno Mendes and many more turning surplus ingredients into a delicious menu. I was privileged to watch the brilliant and highly gifted Michel Roux jr and his daughter Emily (of the legendary Le Gavaroche) and Jonny Lake (of the iconic Fat Duck) in action. And on the day that I excitedly watch Georgio Locatelli (of the award winning Locanda Locatelli) the dynamic Charles Reed, chief of the trailblazing Worlds 50 best restaurant Academy was also there to support this noble venture.
YOU CAN BE A PART OF IT TOO
Following the month-long June festival, Refettorio Felix will continue to operate and provide a vital community service for years to come. With the support of Food for Soul and its partner, The Felix Project, meals will be prepared by two resident cooks with assistance from a guest chef. If you are a chef and visiting London you can volunteer to cook for a day. Should you be visiting London and want to volunteer to help to serve or help out you can do so too. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
MASSIMO’s Breadcrumb Pesto
Here’s the recipe which maestro Massimo Bottura cooked up on the very first day launch of “Food for Soul” Refettorio felix.
Serves 4- 400g Artisanal dried Pasta (spaghetti)/ 1 garlic clove/120g fresh basil leaves (if you don’t have enough basil, use parsley, mint, and gentle green herbs – not rosemary )/ 50g breadcrumbs /salt (1g)/100g grated Parmigiano Reggiano / 70g extra virgin olive oil (preferably chilled 3 hours)/ 30g cold water
Place the garlic, bread crumbs, basil and mint, and salt in a food processor and pulse. While the machine is running, drizzle in the oil and the water alternatively through the feed tube, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Transfer to a large serving bowl and stir in the Parmesan.Cook the pasta according to the package directions (al dente).
Strain the Pasta without rinsing, add the pasta to the bowl with pesto, stir gently and serve warm. Enjoy!
It’s a privilege and a blessing. I came to London, only to be able to volunteer as a part-time waitress in the worlds best chef Massimo Bottura’s truly noble and innovative “Food For Soul” non-profit project. Lara and Massimo Bottura are blessed alchemists: not only do they ensure that many a homeless and vulnerable is fed but do so by orchestrating the collection and use of wasted food. And here’s the exciting part, 30 of the worlds greatest chefs have volunteered and each one cooks daily. From Massimo Bottura himself to Georgio Locatelli, Jamie Oliver, Michel Roux jr and many more. They do so in the simply but elegantly decorated Refettorio Felix.
“Chefs have risen to celebrity heights,” Chef Bottura commented. “I believe we, chefs, can reflect these lights to illuminate the most pressing issues facing society today. Cooking is a call to act.” Admiration!
P.S. Already the brilliant Chef Vicky Ratnani has put a message on my Instagram feed and offered to cook here, should you be in London and be willing to volunteer to help or if you are a chef to cook then please do get in touch.
Every man and his dog is welcome here. Literally. Not only are all pets welcome but here is one restaurant which also has pet food on the menu. So who better to help me accurately assess this Kemps corner restaurant than the fun, foodie, animal-loving family of six.
Read my detailed review on: https://whatshot.in/mumbai
“Dimsum” translates to “touch the heart” in Chinese and my four city China trip through Michelin starred restaurants, local holes in the wall and superb dimsum sure did touch my heart. But the treat to beat all treats was in Beijing. To interview and dine with China’s best chef Tony Lu, who shuns publicity, never meets journalists. He says he prefers to focus his time on nurturing his seven restaurants and two Michelin stars. And in Beijing’s most popular Cai Yi Xuan, ( “the art of dining”) where along with Tony Lu’s menu I had yet another fabulous surprise, our very own dapper Vishal Sanadhya who heads up food and beverage in this iconic hotel. I get a taste of China’s Beijing, Shandong, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces in this shimmering, glamorous restaurant.
Delightful dimsum of course, plump with flavour and texture. I devour amazing lessons about China’s cuisine incredibly rich culturally, gastronomically and medically. In ancient times, a cooking pot (the ding) was a symbol of political power and in this carnivorous country, I not only ate at many a pure vegetarian restaurant but also in Shanghai’s sublime pure vegetarian Michelin starred restaurant. Tony Lu’s of course. My learning continues.