Making Food for the Homeless from Day-Old Bread

I Love to Love to Eat

I love food. Or, more appropriately, I love to eat.  Not only that, I love to love to eat.  Not in a gluttonous way, but in a warm, cozy, fun way.  I do not overeat (often).  

There is something magical about the effect of a good meal on people.  

Growing up, my family showed love by feeding people.  Anytime there was a gathering, we ate together.  We told stories.  Jokes came soon after everyone’s stomach was full.  I have carried on this cultural love to my own family and friends.

The Film

My great friend Alpesh seems to be on the cutting edge of finding the newest and coolest stuff out there, and he recently told me about a “food” documentary that is on Netflix called “Theater of Life.”  He thought I would like it since I told him that I have recently become obsessed with another show on Netflix, “Chef’s Table.”  One of the chefs on Chef’s Table is Massimo Bottura, an Italian master chef with an awesome and endearing personality.  As soon as I told him I loved Chef Massimo, he said that I had to watch “Theater of Life”.  He described it as a documentary about master chefs making food for homeless people with stale, day-old bread.  How could I not be interested, right?

I finished watching Theater of Life, and Alpesh’s description is completely accurate.  Since Alpesh and I have been friends from when he walked into my dorm in college on the first day, he pretty much knows what I would like.  I loved Theater of Life.  It is a slice of what it must be like to live as a homeless person, in poverty, without sources of regular meals.  

I would recommend the documentary to anyone who would like a glimpse into the dual world of 3-star Michelin chefs and homeless people in Milan, Italy.  It does not pretend to solve any problems, but it does connect the idea of food with social justice and caring for all of the people in our communities.  Massimo has a speech at the end of the film where he describes his desire to connect ethics with esthetics.  He is one of the best chefs in the world, and he desires to not just cook for rich people, but all people.  This idea resonates with me.  How do I connect my profession with my community – all members of my community.  

Food from Day-Old Bread

The basic concept of the film is that there is a place in Milan, Italy where anyone (homeless, impoverished, refugees, etc.) can go and receive a meal cooked by the best chefs in the world.  The chefs include Massimo, who I mentioned above, and some of his world-renowned chefs from all of the world (Mario Battali, etc.).  This sounds fascinating, until the film describes that the food prepared comes from the food that is “wasted” or not wanted by others in Milan.  The main food that is wasted is day-old (or older) bread from restaurants and other places in Milan.  Massimo and some of the other chefs describe how the waste of society can be used to benefit others.

What I Learned

I cannot described the entire film, but I can share one beautiful lesson from the film.  Here are a few snippets of one scene at the end.  You can read the subtitles in the images, but I will also copy them below.

Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz from Spain says this:

If you had all of the world’s best ingredients, you’d start to have doubts.  But when you have a limited choice of things, then you can do great things.  And I mean great things.  That’s what we do so that these people can have a good time.  Well, that’s what food is about.

All of these dishes use day-old, stale bread as an ingredient.  The bread starts as being hard, tough, and almost unusable.  But in the end, the dish is served, and the chefs provide an incredible meal to homeless people.

Another Thought

I was fascinated by one chef who explained that most of the famous dishes that chefs cook are actually dishes created from “wasted” ingredients.  It is only when the dish catches on and become famous that the ingredients and the dish become well-known and copied.  Some of the best dishes come from food that would have been wasted.  The dishes do not come from starting with best ingredients.  

The metaphor of the film fascinates me.  Is that not like almost anyone who has accomplished anything?  Do we always start with the best ingredients or situations?  For me, the answer is no.  But what can we make of it?  What could a master chef make of it?  

I actually write about the beauty and benefit of these types of limitations in my soon to be released e-book about the necessary tools to reinvent yourself. Make sure you get a copy of that e-book by subscribing to my newsletter here.

I am challenged today to see what I can do with the stale, tough, day-old bread parts of my life.  

Stay in Touch

If you want to watch the film, check it out on Netflix.  I enjoyed it.  

Let me know if this resonates with you – leave a comment!

  • Adam Mashni

    Love this. And Excited about the eBook!

    • John Mashni

      Thanks Adam! I really wonder how this would work if we tried to organize something similar where we both live. I think it would be incredible. Thanks for the comment.

  • Glad you liked the documentary. Loved your point on what you make of your situation is the most important.

    Three of the greatest movies of all time (limited budgets)
    1. Godfather (Budget 6-7 Million)
    2. Rocky (Budget 1.1 million)
    3. Shawshank Redemption (Budget $25 Million; still quite small)

    Limited resources with amazing vision is a good recipe.

    • John Mashni

      El Mariachi – $7,000

  • Charlie Green

    This reminds me of the time as a kid when my grandfather gave me the job of picking up bent nails scattered around a construction site. I proudly presented him with a bucket of bent nails, only to learn my work was not done. He handed me a hammer with instructions to pound them straight so they coukd be used. Sometimes people hammer us and bend us….and sometimes the right person can see the value in us, pick us up and hammer us straight again. Draw your own metaphors. Thanks John for reminding me of that lesson.

    • John Mashni

      Great story and analogy, Charlie. Thanks for sharing that. 🙂