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Massimo Bottura, Cubism and Jazz in the kitchen of one of the best restaurants in the world

Massimo Bottura, Cubism and Jazz in the kitchen of one of the best restaurants in the world

2017/14/09 - If Massimo Bottura and Andy Warhol had met, they would have liked each other. The American artist would often say that if you wanted to learn all about him, all you had to do was look at his paintings and watch his films. “I’m there, there is nothing more”, he would repeat. The same applies to the Italian and his dishes. Chocolate, hare and herbs that recreate Picasso paintings, a team of chefs warming the bench and Billy Holiday’s rugged voice singing in the background at the Osteria Francescana. This is how the world’s best restaurant 2016 is run and how its maestro, Massimo Bottura, the Michelangelo of the stoves, heads it.

With three Michelin Stars, Osteria Francescana was considered in 2016 the best restaurant in the world. At this rate theyll have to name you honorary citizen of Modena, youre going to become as famous as the other icon of the city, the great Luciano Pavarotti... How would you describe your cuisine?

I am an Italian chef born and raised in Modena. Among all different ideas and inspirations that return to my mind are my childhood memories, where the Italian traditions, family meals and women cooking are most predominant. I remember vividly when I was a kid, playing with my brothers, I used to hide under the kitchen table where my grandmother folded tortellini -not simple tortellini, but the traditional Modenese tortellini-. Whenever she wasn’t looking, I would steal the tortellini from the surface, and eat them raw, chewing them for a very long time, until the flavor was drawn out.

Italian cuisine is a part of me: it is in my blood, in my bones, in my DNA. I would be nothing without it. What we do in Osteria Francescana is capture our childhood memories and turn them into edible bites; our dishes aim to make these ideas, feelings and memories accessible to our guests from all over the world.

Modena is where I was born and raised. I have always said that the greatest award of all aren’t the stars or the rankings but having people from all over the world come to Modena. There is so much to discover here, from food to design to automobiles. And in this way Osteria Francescana’s success is shared with everyone.

As a football-lover you might know that FC Barcelonas slogan is More than a Cluband, definitely, Osteria Francescana is much more than a restaurant. What exactly is Osteria Francescana and what can we find there if we go to your restaurant?

What makes a soccer team great or a restaurant number one? The team. It is never about one player. Osteria Francescana, is no exception. Osteria Francescana is the sum of many people. The restaurant would be nothing without my team and my family. I’d go as far as saying that my team IS my family. Many people grew up in the restaurant, with the restaurant: Beppe Palmieri, our maitre, has been at Osteria Francescana for 16 years; Davide di Fabio and Takahiko Kondo, the two sous chefs, have been working in the kitchen for the past 12 years.
At Osteria Francescana, you’ll find a team of passionate hard-workers, all committed to the same dream. Being awarded no. 1 restaurant in the world makes all of the sacrifices we have made collectively and individually worth it. Everyone’s hard work and dedication is the motivation to continue following their dreams. In the end, it’s all about hard work in the kitchen: 90% hard work and 10% talent.

In the concept and cooking vision of a chef that cooks while listening to Billie Holiday and is inspired by the works of art of Damien Hirst, ¿are the ideas as important as the ingredients? And speaking of ingredients... ¿How important is extra virgin olive oil in your cuisine and how do you use it?

I often say that cooking is not only about the quality of the ingredients, but also the quality of ideas. What’s the point in having such high quality products without knowing how to handle them or even understanding them? Buying the best Piennolo tomatoes won’t help if you don’t know how to use them. On the other hand, I am so lucky to have such incredible ingredients close at hand to work with, such as Parmigiano Reggiano and balsamic vinegar from Modena or capers from Pantelleria, semolina pasta from Gragnano, tomatoes from Vesuvio, lemons from Capri...
And speaking of ingredients, extra virgin olive oil is the key for Italian cuisine and also for our kitchen at Osteria Francescana. It is not only a medium for cooking but it is an ingredient that adds specific flavor and, at the same time, enhances the flavors in other products. It brings out the aromas of the place where it comes from, might them be light or full-bodied, bright or peppery. Even a piece of stale bread, slightly toasted and seasoned with high quality extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt, becomes a delicacy.

Which is the perfect dish and who is the perfect diner or consumer?

I don’t believe in perfection. I believe in the obsession for quality, in the constant research of ideas, in the improvement of technique. It is the moment of imperfection that stays forever in our memories. This reminds me about our lemon tart. Taka Kondo, our Japanese pastry chef, dropped a lemon tart during service one evening. The broken plate and tart was so beautiful that we decided to re-create it in the same way from that day on. Not only does this gesture talk about the importance of leaving a window open for poetry in our busy lives, but also the emotional value of imperfection.

Your colleague Ferran Adrià confessed to us that extra virgin olive oil is a part of his DNA. You have your own brand, Villa Manodori. Do you think that extra virgin olive oil is a trend nowadays or has it never stopped being a trend? Why?

For us, extra virgin olive oil is not a trend but a way of life. The Italian way of life. We sprinkle our obsession for quality into each Villa Manodori product, pouring Italian passion for fragrance and flavor into a bottle. Our extra virgin olive oil, in fact, is combined with extracts of ingredients that clearly define our cuisine such as lemon, basil and rosemary. Of course, we only use the highest quality products, like lemons from Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast harvested at the peak of their flavor. We extract the lemon essence using only the oils from the lemon zest or skin at a very low temperature so that the pure flavor is preserved and captured. All these various fragrances encourage cooks to experiment, taste and play in the kitchen.

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