Charity, Gastronomy and Multitasking

 

We are in Rio and 18 000 athletes and their Olympic entourage need to be fed, three times a day. I have no idea of the dietary needs of the athletes. Does Usain Bolt go to his nearby canteen and grab a turkey sandwich, joining Michael Phelps who is having a spaghetti bolognese? Does Nafissatou Thiam (Rio 2016 Gold Medal heptathlon for Belgium – just saying) ask for a chicken salad, then caves and orders a side order of onion rings and fries? Are there onion rings and fries? Is there sourdough? Baguette? Full fat yoghurt? Skinny lattes? Veggie burgers?

Whatever there is, it is not all consumed and Mr. Massimo Bottura does not like this. He has therefore taken the high road from Modena where his multi starred restaurant Osteria Francescana is located, to Rio where he decided to make a difference. A meal, made from donated, unused ingredients, for 70 homeless people. Good on him.

Bottura is not alone. Juan Roca, Alain Ducasse, Alex Atala and many more have joined. And meanwhile, in collaboration with Brazilian chef David Hertz’s nonprofit organization Gastromotiva, the RefettoRio Gastromotiva is born. A project hopefully to stay, feeding the poor, the needy, the hungry.

Culinary philanthropy and social gastronomy are nothing new. Jamie Oliver did something similar, Milan’s Refettorio Ambrosiano (also Bottura) is still up and going, scholarships, give-back initiatives, … celebrities join in, politicians show their support, designers design for free, the pope gives his blessing.

It is true. We waste too much food. We are overfed. The world is unfair.

Enter the beautiful world of charity.

One needs not be cynical when it concerns charity. Voluntarily helping those in need is a humanitarian act. It is a duty in all religions. Charity takes on many forms. Giving money, making donations, sharing knowledge, dedicating time.

But when to be charitable?

According the Olympic Games to a particular country and town is, as always, a political choice. Committees, lobbyist, I will not mention the unmentionable. But where ever the Games go to, we should not pretend to suddenly wake up to an unknown reality. The favelas in Rio did not appear overnight. The displacement of citizens, new police strategies, changes in law enforcement, it was all to be expected. After all, there are many versions of Rio de Janeiro.

Soon however, the Games will be over. The question then is, which version of Rio will survive?

Crying ‘shame’ and showing a few minutes of ‘social’ coverage is all very well, making a fashionable entry and proclaim your affiliation with a good cause or viewpoint, why not? But the structural needs for change, beyond charity, are all too soon forgotten. And up to the next hotspot we move.

As for Mr. Bottura. He is a talented chef and I am – I am honest – regretful. A bit bitter perhaps. Living at a merely 250 km from Modena, I have missed the Bottura boat. I could, I should have gone to his Osteria, before the multiple awards. I should have made the effort and book a table. Lead, not lag! But, as I said, that ship has sailed. I missed the Osteria, when prices were still affordable, when tables were still obtainable, when Bottura was still in his kitchen.

Bottura has a charitable organization. He has a charitable vision. A plan. He wants to share his good fortune. He is a good man. But he is no longer in his kitchen.

For whoever now books a table at his Osteria, it will be his talented second in command who will cook the food Bottura has invented. And in a way, now snubs.

It is difficult to please everybody. And when one’s intentions are good, why complain? Well, perhaps because, as long as we stay in the realm of the charitable, certain issues, despite all good motives, are not raised. Targeting symptoms, not causes. The unclear distinction between charity, justice and injustice. Who assesses the efficiency of the charity in question? Who benefits from it?

Feeding people is a noble act. Feeding the hungry is virtuous. Taking time out to help your fellow man is admirable. But multitasking is difficult and choosing between our multiple interests, plural philosophical views and ultimately, daily actions and occupations is a different matter. In the end, something always has to give.

As for Bottura, he does not like waste. Perhaps it was written, not in the stars but at least in his menu. Who else could come up with

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Oops I dropped the lemon pie!

 

Crowds, Funding and the Harpist

There can be no confusion between an investment decision and a charity night. Investments are made, expecting a certain return, taking into account factors such as the current economic climate, risk and time frame, whilst heeding the advice of bankers and specialists and bearing in mind one’s private ethical concerns. Charity, other than in its Christian meaning of ‘love of humankind’, the one after faith and hope, is the ‘voluntary giving to those in need’. An anonymous gift, a regular bank transfer, an impulse donation. No return is expected. Yet despite proverbially ‘beginning at home’, charity often takes on the form of a public display; a table at a fundraiser, a bid at a fashionable auction, patronage and sponsorship. Money is however not always the essential element. Philanthropy requires effort, organization, networking and often its causes need no mare than a figurehead, an endorsement, a sign of approval.

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On the crossroad of investment and charity, there is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding allows new businesses to raise money online from private investors via organized platforms such as Crowdcube, Seedrs, Kickstarter.
Crowdfunding is not a new phenomena. The collective raising of funds or praenumeration has existed for centuries just as cooperative movements have seen the pooling of funds to promote new business models. But the scene has changed and there now exist many types of crowdfunding.

One of the most remarkably fun crowdfunding project must be the the Coolest Cooler, cool box with Bluetooth speakers, Led lights, bottle openers, USB charger and a blender on top

One of the most remarkably fun crowdfunding project must be the Coolest Cooler cool box with Bluetooth speakers, Led lights, bottle openers, USB charger and a blender on top

 

Recently Cloud Imperium Games ran the largest crowdfunding project, collecting more than 70 million USD for their Star Citizen video game from fans who will not see a return in equity or profit but instead will be reimbursed with 'fanfood' such as early access to new editions of the game and merchandise

Recently Cloud Imperium Games ran the largest crowdfunding project, collecting more than 70 million $ for their Star Citizen video game from fans who will not see a return in equity or profit but instead will be reimbursed with ‘fanfood’ such as early access to new editions of the game and merchandise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anybody can apply for crowdfunding and from start-ups to small entrepreneurs, the group of crowdfunding initiators has been steadily expanding. In an aim to remain or become independent, journalists in China have via crowdfunding initiatives been able to raise funds to conduct free, investigative reports. Civic crowdfunding initiatives with projects such as the construction of recycling facilities, public parks and playgrounds are spreading. And more and more, artists are appealing to the public and their fans for funds.

Artistic freedom, Grants and Consumption
There has never been a consensus regarding the role of art and the need for culture in society. Forever the domain of disagreement and controversy, artists have a tough deal. Creators, visionaries, parasites, vessels and carriers of our zeitgeist, delusional oracles. Who will say but time? But in the mean time…

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Starving artists do not make better artists. Peripheral or marginal art is not better art.
Art needs exposure and public endorsement. And sometimes, though not always or exclusively, artists need financial backing. Grants, subsidies, commissions and also crowdfunding can provide such support.

Crowdfunding is based on the idea of ‘the wisdom of the crowd’. But who is this crowd? Can the crowd be trusted? Does the crowd have a long-term view? In civic crowdfunding, when the thrill of the initial campaign is over, will the crowd take responsibility for its projects’ future challenges? In artistic crowdfunding, will the crowd continue to champion the artist when tastes change, when fads fade? What are the risks for the survival of the artist’s independence and integrity?

Risk and Responsibility
Crowdfunding as an investment is not without risk for while the platforms are regulated, the fund-raisers are not. Returns, and often the investment schemes themselves, are uncertain. If in other, artistic and small-scale crowdfunding projects, the crowd is to be held somehow accountable, the recipient too needs to take responsibility. Putting one’s name up for crowdfunding should not be synonymous to simply begging for lazy money and endorsing a crowdfunding project should not equate to charity. Not if we wish crowdfunding to exist as a valuable, funding alternative.
So what does one do when the sister of the neighbour of the cousin of your child’s BFF, the one who used to major in harp at the conservatory but decided to drop out in pursuit of a pop career, combining industrial sounds – the terminology was mentioned – with aforementioned harp, launches a crowdfunding project, asking for funds to support aforementioned musical endeavour? 5$ gets you a free music track, available on iTunes. 15$ gets you the same with an additional t-shirt. For 100$ the harpist comes to your home and gives a mini concert.
Advice? Anyone?

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