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Traditional fondue by the lake, delicacies in the heart of the Old Town, Michelin star restaurants in the vineyards, trendy spots and food fusion, Geneva’s gastronomic scene offers exceptional diversity. You’ll have to stay long enough to taste it all!

Portrait of a chef 

Meet Walter El Nagar

Chef Walter el Nagar, better known as the “Mad chef”, keeps the culinary scene on its toes, inspiring and bedazzling foodies locally and internationally. Echoing the ethical and socially responsible approach of a modernised culinary landscape, he is seen as a pioneer in combining human commitment, social innovation and gastronomic research. Last January saw the inauguration of his latest project, Refettorio Geneva.

Background

Born in Italy to an Egyptian father and a Campanian mother, El Nagar has had a passion for cooking since he was very young. Later, he taught himself and decided to make it his profession. He launched his first project in 2008 in Los Angeles, where he opened the Barbershop before exporting the concept internationally.

After landing in Geneva to launch the Fiskebar at the Ritz Carlton Hotel de la Paix, the chef then helped launch Susuru, before moving on to a short-lived concept, Polp, where he served octopus in pita. In autumn 2018, he opened Le Cinquième Jour (15 Gault Millau points), an ethical and socially responsible restaurant, created as an omakase, welcoming a dozen customers per service, four days a week. On Saturdays, the chef and his team cooked for the most disadvantaged. The concept was acclaimed by the public and critics alike. The restaurant closed at the end of January 2020, due to a lack of balance between social commitments and commercial objectives. At the dawn of the pandemic, he returned with Mater, a non-profit organisation, full of promise, that combines human commitment with fine dining, which heralded the beginnings of Refettorio Geneva, a socially responsible restaurant that focuses on sustainability, social inclusion and zero food waste




Mater Fondazione

In early 2020, El Nagar created Fondazione Mater in Geneva, with the aim of “promoting social inclusion through food, encouraging access to a balanced diet for people in precarious situations and fighting against food waste”. The foundation also fosters gastronomic research, with sustainable innovation in mind. The chef continues to advocate short circuits, the democratisation of haute cuisine and workers’ rights in the profession. Training and professional reintegration also form another part of the project. During the pandemic, soup kitchens were organised in collaboration with the Salvation Army and with the help of local volunteer chefs. Over a two-year period, Fondazione Mater helped serve more than 28,000 meals to people in need in Geneva.

Refettorio Geneva

January 2022 marked the opening of Refettorio in Geneva, in the Charmilles district. A spin-off of Fondazione Mater, the new project is the result of in-depth reflection on a project that brings together fine dining and humanitarian commitment. At lunchtime, the restaurant is open to the public with menus that help finance evening meals served to the most disadvantaged people. The social canteen, associated with the Food for Soul network, created in 2015 by Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura, joined the other socially responsible restaurants launched all over the world, following the example of Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Mexico City, New York and London.
Through Refettorio, Chef Walter el Nagar wishes to convey the concept of social, environmental and economic sustainability with force and impact.

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