Gastronomic Diff is proud to present an exclusive interview with Massimo Bottura. This is the first interview of the great Chef presented by a Greek media outlet since Osteria Francescana reached the top of the world’s 50 best restaurants.
The interview will be published in 3 parts:
1. Massimo Bottura & Modern Art
2. The Chef’s Mentors & How He Was Influenced by Them
3. The Stories Behind Massimo Bottura’s Most Important Dishes
This is part 2:
You have stated in another interview that your biggest culinary influences are Alain Ducasse, Ferran Adrià and your grandmother. Could you share a thing you took from each of them?
Alain Ducasse, Ferran Adrià and my grandmother Ancella all have had a great influence over my life and culinary career.
From Ducasse I learned the value of ingredients, local and artisanal, quality before everything else. I was cooking at Louis vx in 1994 and Ducasse taught us all about the true value of Mediterranean culinary traditions and ingredients. He showed me how to be both respectful of the past and contemporary. The day I left, Ducasse asked to look at the notebook I had rigorously written down recipes in. He took a look, tucked it under his arm and said, “Now it is time to walk on your own two feet.” I never did get the note- book back.
I went to El Buli for a summer season in 2000, looking to learn technique I found something completely different: Freedom of Expression. What Ferran had taught me was to believe in my ideas, my vision and my dreams. I saw how technique could become a trap and that the most important part of a recipe is the idea – neither technique nor ingredient.
From my nonna Ancella I learned some very valuable lessons growing up. First and foremost, cook what you love. She was happiest in the kitchen and everything she made tasted good. I learned to respect ingredients, traditional recipes but most of all, ethics in the kitchen. Never waste not even a breadcrumb. The best kitchen is the one that works in a holistic and complete way. I’ll never forget the summer my sister and I spent with her in the hills of the Apennines. There she cooked up a storm despite the deadly heat. She would even make us fresh tortellini for lunch and dinner. All we had to do was ask. And there I learned that Cooking is an act of love.
What is your view of the role and influence of food critics and organizations of restaurant as- sessment (such as the Michelin Guide) in the culinary world?
Gastronomic critics, good journalists, and the better guides really push you forward and keep you on your toes. They can be very stimulating and important for a young chef in the early years to gain confi- dence as well as establish a relationship with the press. I believe that the press has helped me grow and understand my kitchen and myself. Some interviews really force you to look deep into yourself and your kitchen This reflection is important for all chefs. It takes years to mature as a person let alone a chef.
What has been your biggest disappointment and what your biggest triumph in your career?
I don’t have a big disappointment probably because I don’t linger on the past. I chose to project myself into the future, without looking back.
Earning 3 Michelin stars is the greatest award any chef can ever receive. When I was given the chefs jacket with my name and the 3 Michelin stars embroidered in red, I hung it next to my bed for months. I would wake up in the middle of the night and look at it just to make sure I hadn’t been dreaming…just to make sure my dream had really come true. That is how much it means to me.
Does it change you as a chef? No. It does make you feel a great responsibility to the culinary community to hold up that standard and work even harder to maintain it. When we received our 3rd star, we decided that it was time to tear down some walls in Osteria Francescana and build a better kitchen for our staff. What is important is to never stand still but keep moving, evolving and keeping the kitchen alive and con- temporary. The rest is just hard work.
My biggest triumph is that after 21 years we are still here in Modena in via Stella, cooking, thinking and moving the Italian kitchen forward.
The interview was taken in August 2016 by Vasilis Economidis