Refettorio Mérida finally opens, feeding the hungry in a reclaimed mansion

One of the worlds top chefs has opened a restaurant in Merida, but it’s aimed at feeding the hungry, not the well-to-do. Photo: Facebook @refettoriomerida
One of the worlds top chefs has opened a restaurant in Merida, but it’s aimed at feeding the hungry, not the well-to-do. Photo: Facebook @refettoriomerida

A community dining room built by renowned chef Massimo Bottura and his wife Lara Gilmore is finally open in Mérida.

Held back eight months by the pandemic, their nonprofit organization Food for Soul is feeding the hungry in a refurbished Centro mansion on the corner of Calle 60 and 69. While Refettorio Mérida, as it is known, was in a holding pattern, the group delivered meals instead.

The project, which provides chef-prepared meals to the homeless and impoverished communities, was planning an inauguration on March 25.

The Refettorio is one of six around the world, and all possess significant architectural or historical details. This one operates at Casa Sta. Luisa, a historic mansion that once belonged to the Yucatecan philanthropist Pedro Canales.

The dining room is run by Zayuri Valle and resident chef Ángel Zamudio, who deliver about 80 meals on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. With an eye to sustainability, the kitchen is supplied by restaurant kitchens with surplus food that is still perfectly nutritious and fresh. And the dishes that emerge from this kitchen are obviously chef-created. Guests are served a starter, main course and dessert, in addition to natural drinks.

“In addition to a nutritious meal, guests also have the opportunity to use hygiene services, and receive a personal hygiene kit, as well as a pack of clothes to change,” according to Food for Soul’s website, which also highlighted a barber clipping a guest’s hair at the site.

This is the Italian chef’s first such project in North America. In the U.S., one in Harlem and another in San Francisco are due to open in 2021.

Bottura previously vacationed in Mérida and was a headliner in a food festival here.

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