Food news



Barilla continues to pursue its goal of exploring and sharing new insights into the value of food from a cultural, social and environmental point of view. The focus of this last digital debate revolved around the theme of the Mediterranean Diet which, 10 years ago, was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO because of its essential role for people’s health and for the health of our planet. In   2009 the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition created the double pyramid, which illustrates and highlights the fact that nutritional value and environmental impact in the production and consumption phases are very closely linked to each other.

Barilla and the Future Food Institute have decided to address these issues by discussing them with Lorenzo Boni, Barilla Executive Chef for North America since 2004, and Iulia Nonu, Team Head Chef of the Refettorio Felix at St. Cuthbert’s Center – Food For Soul, created by chef Massimo Bottura and his counterpart at the Refettorio in Milan. These are two different visions of the role that these chefs play in triggering the process of making the right food choice that has the least impact on the environment, and in encouraging socialisation within local communities.

In this respect, Lorenzo Boni’s work has always been aimed at contributing significantly to the innovation pursued by Barilla, by working together with nutritionists and scientists. During the lockdown months, Iulia Nonu focused on her latest challenge, namely to reorganise the Refettorio’s entire food distribution system: based on the Food For Soul philosophy, she made it her mission not only to prepare and serve meals to homeless people, but also to help people socialise.

In this way, Chefs become collectors who are capable of communicating in different situations and with various professionals, reaching out to end consumers and explaining to them how proper nutrition can make a difference to our health and be beneficial to the ecosystem.

“The Mediterranean Diet is a lifestyle in itself, which does not exclude any type of food, but simply balances the daily consumption of foods,” Lorenzo Boni explains. “Its social benefits are important for the community just as much as nutritional aspects, since enjoying a meal together with family and friends also represents a form of social pleasure”.  Iulia Nonu also believes that food also stands for “unity, connecting with each other and coming together”.

This is how the concept of fostering sociality based on healthy eating, which can be taught and guaranteed, takes shape.

“The challenge of Food For Soul,” says Nonu, “is to create well-balanced menus by improvising and being creative. Most of the food donated covers the principles of the food pyramid. The negative aspect is that, in most cases, this kind of food is the least consumed on a daily basis, and should be consumed more frequently in accordance with the principles of the Mediterranean Diet. 

“Barilla has always been committed to promoting sustainable nutrition, taking into consideration food costs and accessibility,” Lorenzo Boni points out. “Developing countries are also faced with the challenge of ensuring that people see it not only as nourishment but also as a way of socialising. In this scenario, social media and companies play a key role in educating people: Through its ‘educational cooking classes’, Barilla has developed a model based on technique, sharing and knowledge.

Nutritional culture also means protecting biodiversity that is specific to different areas and countries. “Being able to combine ingredients from different cultures while keeping the principles of the Mediterranean diet in mind is of crucial importance. It is a very interesting challenge, but it is also a way to go global,” explains Iulia Nonu.

Therefore, many chefs have developed new procurement methods so that they can use an even more varied, fresher range of ingredients for their menus. Dan Barber, a chef at New York’s Blue Hill, was one of the pioneers in the USA: he was the one to come up with the “farm-to-fork” restaurant concept after creating the “Stone Farm”, a virtuous example of a vegetable garden. Other restaurants in the UK adopted this model during the lockdown period, such as Chef Neil Campbell’s restaurant “Rovi” in London.

Lorenzo Boni also agrees with this idea: “Take pasta for instance, which I consider a blank canvas. Based on the principles of the Mediterranean Diet, local raw materials can be used to cook delicious pasta dishes literally anywhere in the world”.