Massimo Bottura, one of the most important and talented chef of the world, tells us of recipes, childhood memories and favorite food addresses
“I have always told young chefs to believe in their dreams. The impossible does not exist.” This is all you need to understand that Massimo Bottura, the symbol of Italian cuisine in the world, has character to spare. He began his apprenticeship at the feet of his grandmother under her kitchen table while she prepared fresh pasta to make tortellini. The passion he developed was so strong that he abandoned his law degree and bought a trattoria for sale outside Modena, having no experience, little money but lots of dreams and determination. He obviously had what is described as a strong attitude, otherwise Alain Ducasse would not have asked him to join his restaurant as an apprentice chef. In 1995, he opened the Osteria Francescana and awards followed on an equal footing to a Palmares. The latest distinctions received? The “Grand Prix del l’Art” of the International Culinary Academy of Paris, fourth place in the list of the fifty best restaurants in the world, compiled by S. Pellegrino, and three out of a maximum of three Michelin stars. Hats off!
A memory linked to a flavour. Saba or cooked must. It was Christmas and it was snowing heavily. The whole family went outside to get fresh snow and then we mixed it with the saba, like Sicilian ice. Saba has always brought sweetness into families, particularly in the countryside and during hard times.
A dish of your childhood. Raw tortellini. Raw? Yes, raw. As a child I would hide from my older brothers under the kitchen table, where I would be protected by my grandmother Ancella. She would make fresh pasta even twice a day and I would always manage to steal a handful of raw tortellini. Raw tortellini are a part of my childhood and is the link that I have with the women who have surrounded me – my grandmother Ancella, my mother Luisa, my Aunt Anna and then the lady of the house, Inez.
Your favourite dish. It is the dish that I have in my mind but which I still have not put into practice. I live in my dreams and it is there that I get my better ideas.
The speciality of your restaurant not to miss. I think that right now our Classic tasting menu is something that should not be missed. It encompasses almost twenty years of ideas and research. It is not a stagnant menu but more alive and contemporary today than it was ten years ago. The dishes are still in progression, like all raw materials and products.
Food that you don’t like and a dish that you would never cook. I don’t like dishes prepared with so many ingredients that you can’t distinguish the flavours, I would never prepare a “taste of three different types of pasta”. I have never understood this Italian tradition.
A dish that is suitable for every occasion. Pasta cooked with fresh ingredients and enjoyed amongst friends is always a welcome dish.
Your favourite wine and the best label.I don’t have a favourite bottle of wine. I am very much conditioned by the circumstances and by what I am eating. I always say that the best wine is the one that I drink when I go out to dinner with my wife.
Your favourite cocktail and the best bar it is served in. The Dirty Negroni (with a dash of coffee) served in the Bar Silencio in Paris.
The best ice cream. That of the Gelateria Pomòposa in Via del Voltone in Modena It serves only fresh ingredients which are prepared daily.
Your favourite food market. The Mercato Albinelli in Modena. Not only will you find fresh fruit and veg there but you can also find fish from the Adriatic and amazing delicatessens, not to mention the impromptu meetings with friends on Saturday mornings.
Two ingredients you could never give up. Water and …..passion. Without the two you can do very little.
The foreign country with the best cuisine. Japan, but I am not talking about sushi….by this I mean that it has a cuisine rich in many ingredients, history and poetry.
An obsession in terms of food. The tidiness of the flavours. I am on the lookout for authentic flavours, intense and full of meaning.
A basic ingredient in the kitchen. Humility.
A daring accompaniment but one that works. A desert currently on my à la carte menu called “L’Italia”. The ingredients are: buffalo mozzarella foam, salted, smoked ricotta made from milk of cows which have grazed on mountain pastures, confit of cherry tomatoes from Piennolo, capers, hazelnuts, sour cherries, candied olives from Taggia, mint, bergamot, oil and chilli. A taste of the whole of our wonderful country!
Would you share with our readers one of your secret food places? In the Modena Appenines on the border with Bologna, near Zocca, territory of Vasco Rossi, is Caseficio Rosola a dairy which produces a type of Parmigiano Reggiano with milk of white Modenese cows which until a short while ago were on the verge of extinction. The cows graze in the open, in a landscape which is enchanting and the cheese is incredible (particularly the one that is matured over 30 months) and the people are exquisite. Each time I take journalists there my heart swells. The matured Parmesan is the only cheese that can be eaten by those with lactose intolerance.
Which chef would you like to cook you dinner? My mother – in her house food takes on a different taste. At almost ninety years old she is still able to stupefy me with her cooking.