I read through this interview that Massimo Bottura completed, and literally wanted to eat the page, as Massimo speaks to my heart, and his words are so good, they are edible. Just take a read and see if you agree with me. Massimo is the owner of Osteria Francescana and as it is in Modena I am going to try and have a meal there next year when we are staying in Bologna.
What started you on the path of cooking?
My grandmother, Ancella and my mother, Luisa.
As a kid, I was always under the kitchen table. It was my refuge from 3 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.
This is where my passion for the kitchen began, at the feet of the women I loved most, with flour falling from the table sides and a handful of raw tortellini stolen when their backs where turned.
Which three ingredients could you not live without?
The three ingredients that are always present at Osteria Francescana are:
humility, hard work and dreams
There is always something new to be learned. Most often from someone younger than yourself, or even less experienced. It is very important to keep learning. To be curious and to be humble. Only then do you let your guard down and let the unexpected happen.
The work in the kitchen and the restaurant is endless. When I leave the restaurant, I am still thinking about it, our guests, the evening, new ideas for plates and ways to improve. A restaurant is like a puppy that never grows up. It needs constant attention and discipline but also gives back so much joy and life.
You’ve got to have a dream or two to get anywhere in life. It is very important to live your life with your feet on the ground but your head in the clouds – dreaming. Never give up on your dreams. They are what keep us alive inside. I definitely would not be here today nor Osteria Francescana if I didn’t hold onto my dreams and do everything in my power to make them come true.
Do you have any pet peeves in the kitchen?
Too often people cook with their hands and not their brains. Actually, you need both.
Which meal is your all time favourite?
My mother’s Tortellini.
I not only have an emotional attachment to tortellini but a gastronomic one as well.
They are small packages of Emilian flavour perfectly balanced and complete.
Traditionally they are served in capon broth. 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!!
Which restaurant could you visit over and over again?
Dal Pescatore in the Mantovan countryside. This is a beautiful three Michelin star restaurant run by the Santini family. I appreciate their hard work, success and the values they support. I would love to be the first ring of my own three generation restaurant. I don’t know if my daughter Alexa will join me in the kitchen but I can dream about it. Italy was built on great families making sacrifices for each other. Today this is something that risks being lost forever. Nadia Santini is a perfect role model as she has been working with local producers and traditions for the past 30 years.
Her cuisine is never outdated but always fresh and full of emotional impact.
What is your food philosophy?
Buy the freshest, best ingredients you can. Know your farmer, your butcher, your cheese maker, and your fishmonger. When you have a relationship with the people who produce your food, it will always be better quality. Then try to respect the ingredients on the table. Keep recipes simple, with distinct flavours that do not cover one another.