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!
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.
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!