World knows that how prominently Chef Massimo Bottura and his wife Lara Gilmore loves the food. They recently founded a concept in which a series of spaces (‘Refettorios’) has been launched around the world where the needy can enjoy gourmet meals cooked with food waste in a dignified setting, under the banner of Food for Soul (a non-profit organization). This also led them to get involved with a similarly worthy project a lot closer to home.
Il Tortellante was launched in 2016 in Modena, Italy, home to Bottura, his family and their three-Michelin-star and world’s number 2 Osteria Francescana restaurant, as a way to support young people with autism and their families. Bottura and Gilmore themselves have a son, Charlie, with special needs and were looking for an after school project for him.
At Il Tortellante, these young people gets chance to work with Modense women known as the ‘Rezdore,’ (the mothers, grandmothers and aunts, mostly retired, who have cooked for years for their families) to teach them how to make tortellini pasta, a staple in Emilia-Romagna and the one food Bottura, who grew up in Modena, says he would take to a desert island. The kids are then allowed to take the pasta they’ve made home to their families.
Sometimes back , autism was not classified as an adult disability in Italy, and Bottura says “Il Tortellante has given the kids an open future, something they didn’t have previously. After high school there’s nothing for them to do”. Their families have been given hope too and have reported significant decreases in stress. The project is also improving the lives of the Rezdore and helping to keep handmade pasta-making traditions alive. “We’re transferring the traditions from the grandmothers to the kids,” says Bottura.
Initially what started out with 10 boys aged 14 to 20 has now grown and Bottura and Gilmore have just opened a new site in Modena, which will house a lab for the project and a shop where the handmade pasta will be sold when it opens later in 2018. “Now we start the restoration, because right now the mayor of Modena really believes in what we’re doing,” says Bottura.