Name: Massimo Bottura
Likes: Contemporary art, jazz, slow food, fast cars
Dislikes: Nostalgia, food waste
1. How would you describe your cuisine? It’s deeply Italian — you see my passion transformed into edible bites. In every dish you can see the music and art I love, filtered through a contemporary mind, but sitting on centuries of tradition.
2. What’s the most important ingredient in your cuisine? Culture. If you don’t have culture, you just create good food.
3. Describe your restaurant, Osteria Francescana. It is a laboratory of ideas, in which we create culture. Culture brings knowledge. Knowledge leads to the opening up consciousness — and consciousness to a sense of responsibility. That step is very short.
4. Is cuisine an art, a craft or a science? There’s an Italian word “artiere” — it’s in between artisan and artist. We (chefs) may create food that sometimes comes very close to art. But, in fact, we are “artiere” — artisans obsessed with quality.
5. Your food is very visual. What is your connection with the world of art? Art is my motivational force and it has always been my passion. Art, music, reading — I absorb from everything I do.
6. Any artists in particular that have inspired you? My favorite artist of the past century is Josef Beuys. He’s the one who really inspired me, and opened my consciousness and sense of responsibility.
7. How about Japanese esthetics? I still remember (legendary Tokyo sushi chef) Jiro Ono looking at me as I ate and telling me, “In another life, you were Japanese.” I think it’s true: I feel that with few simple gestures, or a single line, I can express everything.
8. You have Japanese souschefs. Has that been important? Essential! For the past 15 years I’ve had Japanese chefs working with me.
9. Is there a long tradition of food in your city (Modena)? The writer Bocaccio describes seeing beautiful, strong ladies making pasta 24 hours a day. That was in the 13th century.
10. Modena is also famous for fast cars. Is there a connection? It’s inexplicable: Ferrari, Maserati, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Ducatti and more … all those companies are there. Many artists and artisans moved to Modena in the late 16th century. They’re still there.
11. You’ve just been voted top of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. How do you feel about it? I feel serene. I feel very good for my team. We knew we were ready for it, as we are doing amazing things. But for me personally, it didn’t change a lot.
12. What comes next? I never stop thinking about the future. As soon as we came back to Modena (after the award), I was already thinking of my Refettorio (soup kitchen) project in Rio de Janeiro.
13. You opened the first Refettorio during last year’s Milan World Expo. What was the aim? The theme of the Expo was “Feed the Planet.” To me the answer was by fighting food waste — not just serving warm food to people who don’t have anything, but rebuilding their dignity. It’s not a charity, it’s a cultural project.
14. What has been the reaction? One year later, everyone understands what it’s doing. And since we began, the two countries with the most important cuisines, Italy and France, have both passed laws against food waste.
15. What are you doing in Brazil? The mayor of Rio de Janeiro gave a space to us and our local partner, Gastromotiva. It opened Aug. 8, during the Olympics, near the Lapa favela.
16. You were recently in Kyoto. What were your impressions? I was walking by the river at night. The only light was the full moon reflecting in the water. I felt very secure. I could feel the sound of the river — it was unbelievable.
17. How about the city itself? I’m blown away by the respect people show — walking, crossing the street — all the time. It reminds me of what my mom used to teach me. Maybe in Italy we are losing this kind of respect.
18. What for you is comfort food? Perfect buffalo mozzarella, perfect Parmesan cheese or balsamic vinegar, a pear or cherries. I love simple ingredients. They reset my palate.
19. What is your favorite phrase in any language? “The secret of success: waking up in the morning, going to bed at night, and in the meantime doing what you choose to do.” (Musician) Bob Dylan said that.
20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Travel with your ears and your eyes open. Absorb the cultures of other countries. But never forget where you came from.
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