Massimo Bottura is the chef-patron of the three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, which is currently ranked number three in the S. Pellegrino list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Undoubtedly one of the foremost ambassadors of modern Italian cuisine, his avant-garde cooking style is influenced as much by the traditions of his native region of Emilia-Romagna as it is by music, art and literature. Here Massimo shares a few thoughts on what inspires his culinary philosophies.
What’s your earliest food memory?
Hiding, under my grandmother’s table, from my 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 silenced by the constant chatting of my grandmother, mother and aunt who prepared meals for the 10 of us every lunch and dinner.
What’s your idea of comfort food?
My grandmother’s tortellini! They are small packages of Emilian flavor perfectly balanced and complete. Traditionally they are served in capon broth but at Osteria Francescana we serve them in a Parmigiano Reggiano sauce made without heavy cream but with water and emulsified Parmigiano Reggiano. We boil the tortellini in capon broth so that they can acquire the flavour of the broth, then dress them with the Parmigiano cream. Delicious! However, we haven’t modified the tortellini just the sauce – I wouldn’t dare change my grandmother’s tortellini filling!
What do you never cook without?
My team. I admire their dedication and loyalty. We are very focused on what we are doing: to achieve pure flavors and long lasting ideas.
Who’s had the biggest influence on your cooking?
Many things have influenced my cooking but of these the most influential are probably my travels, which stain my thoughts and therefore my food; my reflections on my own territory, family and traditions, which influence my choices; and finally contemporary art, which has had a big influence of the way I approach Italian cuisine.
When are you happiest?
Listening to music. I love to listen to vinyl records on my turntable after work. Sometimes jazz, sometimes electronica, and sometimes old classic rock that takes me back in time. The experience of listening to music, especially when you turn out the lights gives me space to think.
If you could travel in time, where would you go?
My speciality as a chef is to revisit traditional recipes and ideas and make them contemporary. If I could travel in time therefore, I would probably like to go back to explore our Italian history. History has placed many layers upon the surface of this country and many cross-cultural influences have left their mark on its cuisine. The better you understand your past the more you can use it to influence your future, or in my case my cooking!
Follow Massimo on Twitter @massimobottura