My Life In Food: Massimo Bottura

 

Bottura is possibly the most influential figure in the new generation of Italian chefs. His avant-garde approach has seen his Modena restaurant, Osteria Francescana, win three Michelin stars and come 5th in the World's 50 Best Restaurants list. He sits on the board of Ferran Adrià's Basque Culinary Centre.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

Most used is my mind. That is the first requirement in our kitchen – don't get lost in the daily routine. Keep your mind as sharp as your knives. Always stay alert, the next big thing may be just around the corner. The least used, arrogance. I can't stand it and yet so many chefs seems to be armed with it. For me, humility wins every time.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

In Modena, I'd go to the market, buy some bread, a couple of slices of prosciutto, spread some fresh squacquerone (local creamy sour cheese) and onions marinated in balsamic vinegar. Or I'd head to the crescenteria shop near the Albinelli market for a couple of tigelle, a thin toasted flat bread, filled with prosciutto, cheese and fresh greens. Delicious. In London I'd go to Nuno Mendes' Corner Room for a bite or St John bakery for a sandwich.

What do you eat for comfort?

Pizza. I know it's banal for an Italian to say this, however there is nothing like a freshly baked pizza from a local pizzaiolo. A specialty I created is the "sfilo", pulled not rolled, so it is in an oval shape not a circle, with fresh tomato, oregano, anchovies and buffalo mozzarella at the end. Nothing makes you feel more at home.

If you could eat only bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Potatoes. There are so many varieties, each with a season and a particular flavour. At Osteria Francescana we even have a dessert with them in, it's called "a potato waiting to become a truffle".

What's your desert island recipe?

Tortellini and more tortellini. Modenese tortellini are filled with prosciutto, veal and parmigiano reggiano cheese. They are smaller than a cherry – and served either in capon broth or with crème of parmigiano reggiano cheese. Tortellini connect me to my grandmother. She used to make them twice a day sometimes.

What's your favourite cookbook?

Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well by Pellegrino Artusi, although I have never made one dish from it. It was published in 1891 and was the first collection of recipes from all over Italy. Published just after the unification of Italy, this cookbook served to unite our country more than any government ever could. I have my grandmother's frayed copy with her notes scribbled in pencil next to her favourites.

What's your favourite restaurant?

It's impossible to choose just one. My favourite place to eat is at my mother's table because there, and only there, food takes on another dimension. My favourite restaurants around the world are those where I have friends in the kitchen, from Paris to New York, Copenhagen to San Sebastian. You always get a good meal from a good friend.

Who taught you to cook?

I learned to cook from Lidia Cristoni, who came into my kitchen at my old place, Trattoria del Campazzo, on the second day I was open. I also learned about technique from Georges Coigny over the five years of apprenticing with him on my "day off". I learned the value of products, terroir and tradition from Alain Ducasse at Hotel de Paris. From Ferrran Adrià I learned to push the envelope as far I as could.

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