The aphorism that ‘it takes a village’ is often thrown around to describe just about any feel-good social project, but in the case of Rio de Janeiro’s Refettorio Gastromotiva, it feels completely apt.

Located in Rio’s Lapa – a lively Bohemian neighbourhood that has, of late, been beset by homelessness and associated social issues – the restaurant and cooking school’s many worthy goals include providing a dinner service to the area’s socially vulnerable, using surplus produce that might otherwise have been discarded, and a lunch service to the public.

What surprises is the sheer star power behind the project: chefs David Hertz from the Brazilian non-profit outfit Gastromotiva and Massimo Bottura, and the journalist Alexandra Forbes. The restaurant itself is a long translucent oblong box constructed of polycarbonate panels by METRO in just 60 days on a vacant lot. The Campana Brothers, no less, designed the refectory table and benches out of unvarnished marine plywood; Vik Muniz contributed the art work; and come evening, Maneco Quinderé lights up the space like a lantern.

Hertz himself leads the kitchen for the lunch and dinner services turning out homey treats like chicken stew served with roasted vegetables, grilled fruits with chayote pickles and crunchy farofa bread crumbs, and banana peel cake paired with cardamom ginger papaya ice cream. On occasion, he opens the kitchen to a veritable galaxy of bold-faced named guest chefs, among them Alain Ducasse, Albert Adria and Andoni Luis Aduriz, with Ferran Adria all set to wield his spatula in February.