A big family

Eloisa Aquino has been volunteering at the Refettorio Gastromotiva in Rio de Janeiro since 2017. When we spoke to her, she told us that staff, guests and volunteers have become her “adopted family”.


Credits: Angelo Dal Bo

How important is it for you to eat around the same table with the people you love?

The dining table has always held a special meaning for our family. Every interaction in our house revolved around our table, it was always a place to gather, talk, mingle and of course eat.

We are a big family, fun and loud. I have four children who love to talk and my husband, who has sadly passed away, loved to reunite everyone around the table to talk, eat, or drink a good glass of wine.


  • Did you find something in the Refettorio Gastromotiva that somehow reminded you of a family?

The Refettorio Gastromotiva is a big family. After my husband passed away, and after my children moved away to pursue their dreams, Gastromotiva became my “adopted family”. There, I feel at home; loved and hugged by everyone. Mostly, I feel at home when we welcome our guests. They are one of the reasons I live and volunteer. I always say that giving is actually a selfish act, because it feels so much better to give than to receive.


  • Has your way of cooking changed since you’ve started volunteering at Refettorio Gastromotiva?

Refettorio Gastromotiva taught me that food can be a powerful tool for social transformation. Everyone has the right to have a meal served with dignity and respect. Every human being has the right to a moment of pleasure, gathering and bonding. That’s what we give our guests when they dine at the Refettorio. From the chefs, I’ve learned how to transform everything into delicious food, without wasting anything, not even a banana peel. Without waste, we can feed many more people around the world. I also teach this to our guests, that they can transform what’s seen by others as waste, into food.


  • Have you learned new recipes during your services at Refettorio Gastromotiva?

Yes, many recipes! Some of my favorite ones are Cashew Ceviche, Banana Tartar, Black Beans Hamburgers and Minced Banana Peel.


  • What is the most beautiful moment you have experienced at Refettorio Gastromotiva?

Dona Gracinda is one of our recurring guests, she always sits in the same spot. She is 97, beautiful inside and out, and with a great mind. Last year she celebrated her birthday at the Refettorio Gastromotiva. She gave a speech that broke everyone into tears. She said that in 97 years, that was the first time she had a birthday celebration.


  • Have you ever had an unpleasant experience?

Never unpleasant, but sometimes emotional. One day, the Refettorio was full and we only had two seats left. Two men were queuing outside waiting to come in, but when they saw that a mother and her child would not be able to join, they gave them their seats.