Words of wisdom: MASSIMO BOTTURA

By Mariam Digges

Words of wisdom: MASSIMO BOTTURA
One of the world’s most revered chefs and chef-patron of the three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, Massimo Bottura is in town to promote his new book, Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef. MiNDFOOD caught up with one of Italy’s most celebrated gastronomers.

On growing up in Modena:

As a kid, I was always under the kitchen table. It was my refuge from three older brothers’ torments and threats. I found peace at my grandmother’s feet as she rolled out the dough for tortellini, among the smells of broth and roast meats, and was silenced by the constant chatting of my grandmother, mother and aunt who prepared meals for the 10 of us every lunch and dinner. Those memories are probably why I became a chef.

On working with Alain Ducasse and Ferran Adrià:

My first stage experience was with Alain Ducasse. That opened my mind to fine dining and the rigour of the Michelin kitchen. From there I worked on my technique and also on discovering who I am and where I live. By the time I arrived at elBulli five years later, I already had a keen sense of where I was going and Ferran encouraged me to trust myself. I learned a great deal from my experience with Ferran Adrià. What I brought home, however, was not a notebook full of recipes or techniques but an open mind about how to think in the kitchen.

On the relationship between art, music and food:

Cooking today is as much about working through ideas that trickle down from art, culture, music and literature as it is about technique or ingredients. In particular the Italian kitchen, whose very fabric is interconnected with centuries of history, migration, and contamination.

On Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef:

The title has been with me a long time, since I visited Italian foodie friends in LA in 2003. When I entered their kitchen there was a sign: Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef. I asked myself then and there, “Will I ever be trusted to bring the Italian kitchen into the 21st century?” I’ve been working on this book, or at least the idea of it, for about 10 years.

On reinventing the classics:

I describe my kitchen at Osteria Francescana as tradition in evolution. Italian food is internationally appraised and yet it seems still to be stuck in someone’s grandmother’s kitchen. It is as if Italian food is not allowed to evolve. I revisit traditional recipes and ideas and make them contemporary. I try very hard to respect tradition but also respect ingredients, heroic farmers, butchers and fishermen. Sometimes I have to ask if our traditions respect the ingredients – and if they don’t, then it is time to rework them.

On receiving his third Michelin star:

This was my big dream – maybe every chef’s dream, really. I had worked my whole life with this singular goal in mind. Once I received that amazing award I realised something very important: the work had just begun. There was so much more to do, to dream for, to create and share. Two weeks after receiving the third star we tore down a part of the restaurant to build a new kitchen.

Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura (Phaidon, $79.95) is on sale now.  Massimo will be appearing at a series of events in November for Good Food Month, presented by Citi. See goodfoodmonth.com.


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