I've spent time in many kitchens over the past 12 years or so, but this one, well this one was special. I spent several hours deep in the heart of Naples housed in a courtyard… I spent a cool rainy afternoon at Made in Cloister.
So what made this particular kitchen visit special? Does a kitchen need to have a Michelin star to be special? Does an experience need to include a sit down meal with an appetizer, first course second course dessert choice of wines from an extensive wine menu. I do not believe so. I spent time in the kitchen in the company of Chef Sabrina Russo the executive chef of Made in Cloister. Russo, the mind and hands behind the project Food for Soul which is a project headed by 3 Michelin star chef Massimo Bottura whose goal is to cut down on food waste and turn unused/unwanted produce, meats, and breads into meals that can be cooked and given to the needy. Chef Russo has been responsible for the Naples’s chapter of this amazing project ( in conjunction with Dedalus) which every Monday provides 60 to 70 meals for those in need. Before the pandemic Chef Russo, along with volunteers composed of chefs from local restaurants alongside wineries and sommeliers provided a sit dinner. When COVID hit changes were necessary. What did not change was the need for people to have a hot meal. What did and what had to change was how Chef Russo could provide the service that is highly needed. So instead of a sit-down meal, Russo and her team which, by the way, changes on a weekly basis, provides takeaway service.
During the heat of the pandemic the weekly service turned in to a daily service with Chef Russo calling on assistance from friends to put together family packages of dry pasta, tomato sauce other items that families could use since many people had more difficulty providing for their families during the red zone/orange zone period.
|Chef Sabrina Russo (photo from September 2021)|
But let me get back to my visit at the beginning of the month. Each week a chef and a part of his brigade helps Russo out. They help out by providing food, if possible, labor, and of course menu preparation. The week that I visited the guest was Luigi Di Notolo of Classico Ristorante Italiano in Naples. The chef and his team arrived a little after 2 pm, and after a look at what goods were available and a quick briefing with Russo a menu was put together. Every week the idea is to have a first course second course side dish fruit or salad. water and bread. It seems like an easy task but actually the team does not know until they show up what is available and so it is basically an ‘invention test.’
|Chef Luigi Notolo|
Here is a 'taste' of what went down...
The meal for that particular day first course was a pasta dish with creamy pumpkin eggplant and bell pepper sauce, second course was a vegetarian meatball with torzella greens and eggplant. The side dish was also eggplant because as I mentioned before the idea is to cut down on food waste. As luck would have it, there was leftover eggplant parmigiana in the Made in Cloister refrigerator ..perfect. Dessert a fruit salad with pomegranate, banana, cooked apples with cinnamon, and grapes. There is not a lot of time - the meals must be ready by 5:30. And by ready, I mean everything cooked, put in the aluminium containers, put in the bags, and available at the door of Made In Cloister. It was quite exciting to watch and yes admit I admit I even participated in some of the preparation. It was probably one of the best experiences I've had in a while and definitely one of the most satisfying. Why? -obviously for an opportunity to help those in need. Also a chance to really see how a ‘chef’ is also a ‘cook’. It may sound weird, but to see in first person how an experienced chef clicks into ‘cook mode’ by looking at what products are available and then thinking how those can be used to make a full meal. Then - boom - preparing them in a timely manner so that can be served to those in need.
Thanks Chef Russo for the opportunity to witness (and particpate) what you do. Thanks to you, Made in Cloister, Food for Soul, and Dedalus.