If you want to get into Refettorio Paris, an exclusive restaurant in the crypt of the Madeleine church in the 8th arrondissement, your best bet is by signing up to do the dishes. While the star-studded list of guest chefs—including acclaimed restaurateurs Alain Ducasse, Anne Sophie Pic, and Tatiana Levha—makes Refettorio sound like the pop-up event of the century, this dining experience is not intended for foodies with Instagram accounts. Refettorio aims to save its tables for those in need: refugees, low-income families, the elderly, and people “in situations of social vulnerability.”
Building on the existing social restaurant housed in the church, Le Foyer de la Madeleine, which serves homemade seasonal meals at affordable prices (7-9 €) to 250 people daily, Refettorio uses its star power to serve gourmet meals to underserved communities. The restaurant is the brainchild of Food for Soul, a non-profit association founded by chef Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore. The Paris incarnation of the concept follows on the heels of successful sister Refettorio restaurants in Milan, Brazil, London, Modena, and Bologna.
The Parisian chapter embraces the group’s mission statement by repurposing 130 kilograms (286 pounds) of donated “surplus ingredients” and thereby reducing food waste. Refettorio chefs then transform the donated food that would have been disposed of into meals that feed 100 people a night. Dinner is reserved for people with a Refettorio card and is completely free.
Refettorio Paris not only provides a healthy, gastronomic dining experience to those with little access to high-quality cuisine and ingredients, it also offers the full restaurant experience, attentive servers and all. Added touches come from world-renowned artists and architects, such as JR and Nicola Delon, who contributed their talents to create a stimulating and welcoming fine dining environment.
If you’re interested in volunteering at Refettorio, visit their website to find out how you can work in the kitchen or dining room, or even help organize food donations and fundraisers.
- Read more about Massimo Bottura and his quest to feed the hungry.
- One volunteer’s experience at Refettorio helping to feed Paris’ hungry.
- By law French food waste can not be thrown out. Find out what supermarkets do with their waste.