Interview with Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana

Interview: Chef Massimo Bottura

Not so long ago, our Food & Wine Correspondent, Deanna spoke to you about Massimo Bottura and his new restaurant Franceschetta 58. We sat down with Chef Bottura during Identita’ Golose New York 2013 to chat about his demo with Daniel Boulud and his team. The demo was incredibly fun to watch and Bouloud and Bottura were the perfect match. One very French, the other very Italian, they constantly teased each other about the food traditions of their country. What was most impressive, though, was Bottura, the mastermind of Osteria Francescana and a man considered the third best chef in the world, thanking his team not only for the great help during Identita’ Golose, but for their constant inspiration. And while the potato souffle with White Chocolate and Truffles and the Potato Spaghetti Sous Vide Bottura prepared where definitely impressive it was his dedication to his people that make the demonstration memorable. Naturally, I had to inquire a bit more and Chef Massimo agreed to talk to me over cappuccino.

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L25: Chef Bottura we loved your demo and the food was delicious and incredibly creative. We love the potato soufflé because it taste great but it was also an interactive recipe. You don’t have Chef Bottura shaving white truffle on your plate every day! It was really so much fun. But the message of your demo was really interesting because it was a way to elevate a humble ingredient into something really special.

MB: I started considering this point some time ago, when I received my third Michelin Star. To me a parmigiano rind cooked in a bean soup is as good an ingredient as a Breton Blue Lobster. Maybe the parmigiano rind is even more meaningful to me because it takes me back to my youth and brings back emotions that the Blue Lobster could never give me. So in my opinion humble ingredients, especially in this moment of deep financial crisis, in the hands of the right people, with creativity and a bit of luck may make you see things that other people never imagined. Yesterday’s creation of the potato duffle was more than a happy accident, but a very lucky one!

L25: One of the most impressive things we noticed during your demo was your mentoring. It is great to see how you work with your team and foster their passion and growth. US television always displays chefs who are slightly egomaniac, scream, yell and berate their team. Could you tell us more about how it is like to work with you and how you came about this different style of leadership?

MB: When I look in the eyes of my team such as Taka and Yogi, whom you met and also others who may be from South America, the US or really anywhere, I try to understand their culture, how they work, how they obsess about food the same way I do. This allows me the real contamination: it is a wise and dynamic relationship not a wild and oppressive one. It is the best way to work with them because they don’t lose their identity and neither do I but we all benefit from the contamination. This is the way I grow into a better chef and a better person.

L25: The interaction and relationship you have with your team is a lesson in professionalism and, as you said, wise contamination. It’s also great that you implement your team’s culture and background into your food.

MB: When you have achieved the Michelin stars and the prizes you worked, the next step is to foster those who have the talent and passion to take the center stage as well. If you have a great team and you work hard you will achieve amazing results but a great team can only be built through respect. And that is also the time to make your team shine because they are the real asset. And I am not just talking about the people who are in the kitchen with me but also about my purveyors, the farmers, the fishermen, all the people that have contributed to the success of your activity and are a part of your territory.

L25: One final question. What is the first thing you eat in New York as soon as you land.

MB: Well I eat what my friends prepare for me. And I have never been mistaken so far. Eating with my friends has always been the best way to enjoy the city, because the food becomes a memory as they cook from the heart.

Identita’ Golose is coming back to New York City for the 5th year in a row from October 9th to October 12th. If you’d like to meet Italian Icons such as Massimo Bottura, Carlo Cracco, Davide Scabin and American icons such as April Bloomfield, Lydia Matticchio Bastianich and Daniel Humm, click here for the full program and get your tickets. If you’d like to take their amazing creations and learn more about top Italian Products like Monograno Felicetti, one of my favorite pasta brands, this is the event for you.  I am partial to Identita’ Golose because to me it is an unforgettable experience. As opposed to other food festivals in New York City you have the chance to meet and talk to your favorite chefs, aside from tasting their food. It is a great platform for Italian food but also a golden opportunity to be inspired by the best in the business. The thing that I love the most about Identita’ Golose it that the festival is edited so you don’t have “filler events” sponsored by one chef that barely shows up to meet and greet the adoring crowd. All the events give you full access to the chefs and you can actually learn and interact in a dynamic setting. Needless to say I look forward to Identita’ Golose 2014 at Eataly: I am curious to see what my friends have in store this year!