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 email@example.com
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.
London. Bandra and now, the latest Pizza Metro Pizza has set up at SOBOs Kemps corner. Indisutrialist Jay Mehta and wife Juhi Chawla’s PMP distils the spirit of a Pizzeria. It is packed, noisy and brimming over with happy families.
The Worlds 50 best restaurant awards celebrate extraordinary culinary talent providing an annual barometer of the greatest gastronomic experiences across the globe. I dine at the world’s 7th best, Dinner by Heston.
ROKA is London’s award winning Japanese restaurant, serving contemporary Japanese robatayaki cuisine in striking yet informal surroundings.
ROKA brings its unique style of contemporary japanese robatayaki cuisine and its sophisticated design to Mayfair.
No two ways about it. It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s the annual awards ceremony that foodies the world over wait with bated breath for. The Worlds 50 best restaurant awards celebrate extraordinary culinary talent providing an annual barometer of the greatest gastronomic experiences across the globe. As for the past 15 years, once again this year, London’s historic guildhall in London saw the worlds superstar chefs and the whos who of the culinary world flying in to receive their awards. Mind-blowing geniuses from Peru to Japan, Australia to Russia sit shoulder to shoulder as the glittering awards ceremony gets underway. I attend as chairperson of the Indian subcontinent. Over the past two decades, having eaten in their fabulous restaurants, it’s a sheer delight to meet my heroes.
I write from cacophonic Christmassy shimmering, glittering and shivering London. Am here for three days and Indians dazzle. It’s not about Indians in Indian restaurants,
its far more exciting than that. I have an exuberantly flavored meal at the two year old Peruvian “Coya” (Zagat rated it the worlds best restaurant) and guess what? It is not only owned by Indians, the Waney brothers but even the chef is Sanjay Dwivedi. Making waves with it’s luxurious elegance is Rosewood London the first new truly grand hotel to have opened after 25 years. It has already got cult status as a quintessential London destination. And just by chance I bump into the mega-Octane Radha Arora, the President of the group who is on a flying visit to London. His vision and genius is powering this dynamic, exciting group (which amongst other iconic properties also has the fabled Carlyle in NYC). Here, the creatively grounded Chef Palash Mitra, master of spice, deftly delivers authentic, simple Indian food. I savor every morsel, send you wishes for a delicious Christmas and New year! Lets raise a toast to our India!
I raise a toast to the very British tradition of high tea (ofcourse I do it with a cup of the finest Earl Grey tea)!
BRITISH HIGH TEA
Over the years, I’ve been sipping and tasting my way through many a high-tea in London’s legendary hotels and each time I salute Duchess Anna of Bedford for having sent out the invite for “tea and a walk in the fields” over a hundred and fifty years ago. The lovely lady set in motion the most dainty of all culinary traditions.
I raise many a toast to the most legendary, the highly-awarded and the worlds best High teas (which Ive partaken of)…London’s grand historic hotels, The Ritz, The Dorchester, The Lanesbrough and even The Ritz in Madrid and Paris. An amazing tradition which evolved with time…of tea service, side plates, bread and butter plates, cake stands, and every conceivable accompaniment advancing across the drawing room. Tea gardens, tea dances , a whole code of etiquette followed. Now, Tea Council Inspectors check standards and coveted awards are given every year for the Top London Afternoon Tea and Top Tea Place.
Not just the domain of the society grand dames, this tradition is hugely popular with the younger fashionable set too.
CHINESE TEA CEREMONY
Quite different from the British High tea is the Chinese Tea ceremony. I have attended only one such ceremony where tea was made in small clay teapots. The pot rinsed with boiling water and then tea leaves added to the pot using chopsticks or a bamboo scoop. “The art of preparing and making tea is called Cha Dao” informs my Chinese host. I enjoy the way the cups are arranged in a circle and the server pours the tea in all of them in one go.
I notice that he fills the cups just over half way. I am told that the Chinese believe that the rest of the cup is filled with friendship and affection. What a delicious thought!
JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY
Known for their stylish and elegant Chanoyu, the Sencha ceremonies, these are worth partaking of.The Chanoyu ceremony takes place in a wooden or bamboo teahouse called a Chashitsu. Plenty of wonderful rules around being calm, washing hands enjoying the Teishu making the tea using powdered green tea called ‘matcha’ and sitting on the floor around a low table.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
Sure all the High teas and tea ceremonies Ive attended have been fabulous, but this one, here in Bangalore is easily the best. Please take a look at the photograph Ive shot. Time stands still, luxurious high tea from another era is flamboyantly served under the 150 year old Rain tree. Every detail in this 125 year old beauty of a landmark Taj Westend hotel is perfect. The Taj West End was started as a 10 bed genteel boarding house for upper class English Gentlemen by the Bronsons in 1887 and today remains at the top of the world class hotels. I take many trips back in time here in all their bespoke experiences they’re offering to celebrate history. From getting high on their Heritage Champagne Walk, admiring the oldest and first red colored Post Box operational till date, soaking in the Art Corridor to sitting under the magnificent Rain tree which is older than the hotel and has stood tall since 1848. Here with the charming colonial 1905 block as backdrop in the Mynt Lawns, I choose from a selection of delectable treats.
Along with this Art of High Tea an inspiration from the Colonial era (with a menu crafted for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians)The brilliant executive Chef Sandip Narang having honed his mastery all over the world and set up award winning restaurants in India also offers a well contemplated Anglo Indian Menu that draws inspiration from the British Raj, of western dishes infused with spices and other local ingredients. At the Westend’s High tea, take your pick… open sandwich of smoked salmon, cucumber and dill sandwich, crispy fish finger with tartare sauce, lemon tart, frosted cupcakes, coffee macaroons, strawberries in chocolate to name a few. Pair it with a wide ranging tea selection from Darjeeling to Monking Jasmine, Earl Grey and Egyptian Camomile.
I’ve been passionately in love with The Westend and been visiting it since many decades. It’s old world charm and colonial architecture blends with the high tech and amazing restaurants (including India’s first Vietnamese restaurant, Blue Ginger) weave a memorable spell, The dynamic Somnath Mukherjee ensures that each and every detail is perfect. Over the years, staying in these cottages interspersed over 20 acres of lush greenery and spreading canopies of trees has always been magical for me. I’m fascinated to learn that it was under these trees that Nobel prize winner Ronald Ross discovered the cure for malaria. It was here that Sir Winston Churchill often dined as a Cigar – smoking war journalist; and later went on to become the Prime minister of Britain. It is here that under the ancient Rain tree that I sip (literally too) 125 years of legendary history. This is most certainly, my cup of tea.