A top chef is using leftover food from the Olympic Village to make meals for Rio's homeless.

Italian cook Massimo Bottura described it as an "opportunity to make a difference," the New York Times reported.

"This is not just a charity; it's not just about feeding people," said Bottura, who runs one of the world's best restaurants.

"This is about social inclusion, teaching people about food waste and giving hope to people who have lost all hope."


Bottura took action after estimating that it takes 250 tonnes of raw food to make just one meal for the 18,000 athletes, coaches and officials in the village - and that plenty would go to waste.

He set up a makeshift kitchen in a rundown part of Rio and feeds dozens of homeless people each night at a restaurant called Refettorio Gastromotiva.

The project is a collaboration with Brazilian chef David Hertz, the New York Times said.

Nine months before the start of the Games, Hertz persuaded Rio's mayor to provide an empty site and Bottura started raising US$250,000 (NZ$346.000) to pay for the project.

The duo have a 10-year lease and plan to fund free dinners by charging for lunch.

One diner said the food was the best he'd eaten. Rene da Conceição is 40, has spent the past nine years on the streets with his wife and usually scavenges food from bins.

"Oh my God, he takes banana peels and makes incredible ice cream," the New York Times reported.

"These guys, they shake your hand and they treat you like you're a boss," he said. "I thought I was dreaming and told my wife to pinch me. But it wasn't a dream."

-New York Times