Students without Borders

Sometimes, when two unique cultures meet, we have the most unexpected results. In this case, the Japanese culture - represented by a delegation of Japanese students visiting Modena - and that of the ancient Modenese traditions, were merged during dinner service at Social Tables Ghirlandina.

Schermata 2019-09-24 alle 13.32.18

Credits: Food for Soul

On Monday, September 23, a group of students from Kusatsu, a small town in the Shiga region, ‘explored’ for the first time the historic Albinelli Market in Modena, then volunteered their time as chefs during the service at Social Tables Ghirlandina. The students attend the Gastronomy Management course at Ritsumeikan University, in the province of Kyoto, where they study topics such as marketing, production techniques, food history and psychology, sensory analysis and much more. Fascinated by a lesson on Italian gastronomy held by the Japanese journalist Masakatsu Ikeda, they decided to practice what they had learned and dive deeper. They bumped into Chef’s Table and into Massimo Bottura’s call to act to fight food surplus in the interest of social inclusion. Suddenly there was a new topic to explore.

In no-time, Social Tables Ghirlandina became the perfect meeting point: here these young students had the chance not only to take part in the fight against food waste, but, cooking the dinner for the guests, they became spokespeople of a message of inclusion. “Although everything seems to be working at its best, the concern for food waste is a reality that is spreading even in Japan,” said their teacher Masayoshi Ishida, who organized the trip. “We are talking about a social problem, and we want our students to be aware of what is happening – only by “copying” and taking inspiration from what they see they’ll be able to make things better. The problems in our country are mainly two: we buy too much and consume little, consider that 40% of what we buy in Japan is thrown away. Let’s take vegetables, the most wasted ingredient in our country: if I have the chance to buy 5 carrots for €1, probably only 2 will be used; but if I buy only two carrots those will be of quality, no need to waste anything.”

The solution? “Each of us must be aware of everyday life and recycling should start in our homes.” Masayoshi called it a “slow design” concept: awareness must start from our homes, and only then we can try to replicate the big model, to think big, at the society level.
After listening to the story behind the project and learning its values, the students together with their professor worked hard to make the service perfect for the guests: by setting up the room, helping in the kitchen, and creating and preparing a three-course menu with food surplus donated by city market vendors. The menu they prepared, although simple, was able to convey their enthusiasm and commitment: in addition to paccheri pasta with tomato sauce and a salad with the fruit recovered from the market, they also made chips with the skin of the potatoes used for the second course. Thanks to the thunderous applause of the guests, the evening ended in a climate of general enthusiasm. The following day Masakatsu, who had joined the kitchen brigade, confessed: “Although the result was a very simple meal, in the end the guests appreciated what we did, we also exchanged a few words, some of them even asked for bis and tris! We served guests a meal, but in return, we also received something. I believe that students, future managers of food companies or of the sectors, showed the ability to convey something important: the meaning of eating and living.”

Now it’s time to pass the torch, in the hope that they will help us spread the message further, make our voice louder and inspire others to act.