In 2014, David Hertz met Massimo Bottura at an event in Copenhagen. Now, less than two years later, the two chefs renowned for both their culinary prowess and social advocacy have teamed up to open a community kitchen in the central Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Lapa.

During the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the facility will serve free, chef-prepared meals daily to the city’s homeless.

David Hertz (left), Alexandra Forbes and Massimo Bottura at the RefettoRio Gastromotiva launch press conference.

Julia Assis Fotografia

Hertz, the Brazilian founder of the nonprofit Gastromotiva, approached Bottura about adapting his Refettorio Ambrosiano model for Rio. Bottura and his nonprofit, Food for Soul, built the Refettorio Ambrosiano soup kitchen in an abandoned theater in Milan and recruited more than 65 international chefs to prepare meals for the city’s poor community using surplus food from the five-month 2015 Expo Milano.

"I wanted to contribute to the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympics Games and, when I saw Refettorio Ambrosiano, I realized this would be my way of helping the community,” Hertz said.

Chefs Carlos Garcia and Zamir Zambrano prepare a traditional recipe from Venezuela.

Bottura kindly agreed to collaborate, and the RefettoRio Gastromotiva partnership was born.

Dozens of renowned chefs and organizations from around the world will take part in the venture, which is co-organized by food journalist Alexandra Forbes. Each day during the Games, a different chef will create a delicious and nutritious dinner menu using surplus ingredients sourced by catering company Behind before being sent to the Olympic Village, media center, or Rio 2016 staff dining facilities.

A dish created by Chef Rafa Costa e Silva.

Angelo Dal Bó

RefettoRio Gastromotiva will offer both food and dignity to Rio’s underprivileged and social vulnerable citizens with strategic support of Coca-Cola Brazil, World Vision and other partners.

During a press conference on Aug. 3, Massimo insisted that RefettoRio Gastromotiva is not charity.

“It’s a cultural project,” he said.

One key pillar of the program is to reduce food waste. Refettorio (reficere in Latin) literally means "to remake” or “to restore.”

"There are many people in need and, the lesson taught by the RefettoRio Gastromotiva project is ‘to fully benefit from all raw materials’,” said participating chef Thomas Troisgros. “Excess ingredients will be used in the preparation of the meals. Everything will still be entirely usable and of good quality. We’re just going to use the food in a smart way."

RefettoRio Gastromotiva

Tables and seats designed voluntarily by the Campana Brothers to welcome guests.  

Angelo Dal Bó

The facility was built on land granted by the City of Rio de Janeiro to Gastromotiva for the next 10 years. The kitchen will remain operational after the Games, and also will serve as a learning center for up-and-coming chefs and offer healthy eating workshops for families and schools.

"We want to bring a social change to the neighborhood and the city. The restaurant-school will work to fight against waste and poverty, with nutritional education as well free quality food and training for low-income individuals," said Hertz, noting that Coca-Cola Brazil was the first company to invest in the RefettoRio Gastromotiva project, opening the door for additional sponsors.

Coca Cola Brazil's Claudia Lorenzo (left), Andrea Mota and Flavia Neves volunteering at RefettoRio Gastromotiva.

“We believe that in order for our business to prosper, it is essential that society also prospers,” said Andrea Mota, category strategy director, Coca-Cola Brazil. “That is why we seek to support projects like RefettoRio Gastromotiva, aiming to contribute to the well-being of our communities, which goes beyond minimizing food waste to also cover access to quality food and dignity for all.”

Coca-Cola, a sponsor of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, hopes to make the most of Brazil's high-profile moment by shedding light on the cause so other like-minded partners join the movement.

“Together,” Mota added, “we can leave a legacy that will endure for many years, helping transform the nutritional scenario of our country.”