Massimo Bottura and Enrique Olvera create kitchen alchemy
Enrique dug into Inca history and the Refettorio’s back yard to make a beautiful and healthy mole verde
The Refettorio Ambrosiano is, for the most part, an upmarket soup kitchen. The Italian chef Massimo Bottura opened it during the 2015 Milan Expo, to repurpose bin-bound ingredients, creating healthy food for the city’s poor.
However, during the Refettorio’s initial run during the Expo, Bottura also opened its doors up to the public for a couple of special charity dinners. One of these events was overseen by a dream team of Latin American chefs: Matías Perdomo, Enrique Olvera, Daniela Soto-Innes, Carlos García, and Rodolfo Guzmán.
Massimo was keen to work with them, partly because of their innovative treatment of their traditional national cuisines , but also because of their waste-not-want-not approach to cookery.
“Enrique Olvera is a Mexican chef who, over the past ten years, has taken on Mexican culinary traditions as no one has done before,” explains Bottura in his new book Bread is Gold. “His Mexico City restaurant Pujol has redefined Mexican culinary heritage, while his New York outpost Cosme, led by the talented chef Daniela Soto-Innes, is taking on contemporary Mexican cuisine.”
When Enrique and Daniela cooked at the Refettorio, they made a mole dell’orto, an improvised version of the traditional Mexican dish mole verde. The recipe, which is reproduced in Bread is Gold, utilises unwanted cucumber and squash; yet Daniela went a little further in her mission to find overlooked ingredients in unusual places.
“She went out behind the Refettorio looking for wild greens to create this unexpectedly fresh mole,” explains Massimo.
Rooting around in the restaurant yard might not come naturally to some chefs, yet as Enrique explained to Massimo, a thrifty approach to food waste runs deep in Mesoamerica.
“Enrique talked a lot about his research into Mexico’s pre-Hispanic period, when the Incas began to see the potential in garbage,” Massimo writes. “'For the Incas,' he explained, 'waste became a resource that could be recovered, reused, recycled, and used productively in manufacturing and agriculture. Necessity helped them discover self-sufficiency.'”
And self-sufficiency came in handy when these highly talented Mexican chefs wanted to add a little bite for their healthy, eco-friendly mole verde.
Want to try Enrique’s mole? Then order a copy of Bread is Gold here. In it you'll find 150 recipes from 45 chefs using everyday ingredients to create inspiring dishes that are delicious, economical and - above all easy to make.