2012 International Chef of the Year: Massimo Bottura Slideshow

2012 International Chef of the Year: Massimo Bottura

"My kitchen can be defined as 'tradition seen from 10 miles away.' I revisit traditional recipes and ideas and make them contemporary. This is my speciality. I try very hard to respect tradition but also to respect ingredients, heroic farmers, butchers, and fishermen. Know your farmer, your butcher, your cheesemaker, and your fishmonger. When you have a relationship with the people who produce your food, it will always be better quality."

Entrance Hall at Osteria Francescana

Bottura's attractive contemporary-styled Osteria Francescana is located in Modena, in the gastronomically rich Emilia-Romagna region — famous as the home of Maserati, Ferrari, and Lamborghini, but also of aceto balsamico (the real balsamic vinegar), cotechino and zampone sausages, and such pasta as tortellini and tortelloni, so there's lots of tradition to draw from.

"An Eel Swimming Up the Po River"

Saba lacquered Adriatic eel served with cream of polenta, Campanine apple jelly, and burned onion powder.

"Eels were a great source of income for the Este family, the Dukes of Modena, who were forced to move from Ferrara to Modena in the 16th Century. The eel is cooked sous-vide and then lacquered Asian style in the oven with the sweet and sour saba sauce.

Each accompanying element is fruit of the eel's imaginary journey from from the Adriatic sea to Modena via the Po river expressing the wealth of products available in the Emilia-Romagna region. The plate is a symbolic gesture to remind that the kitchen is not only a place for innovation but for reflection and remembering."

Chef Massimo Bottura on Narrative

"When I am working on a new recipe, the ideas are never abstract, but firmly rooted in a point of departure. It is never just about ingredients or an 'amazing combination' of flavors, but about ideas that spin out from what I see every day in the world around me. Right now, I am working on a series of plates around the idea of 'leftovers' and not throwing away even the tiniest scraps. Perhaps this is because Italy is facing a great economic crisis, or maybe I am getting old and just don’t want to throw anything away, I don’t know… but the recipes that come out of this reflection will have stories to tell, which I hope will last as long as the recipes themselves."

"Cod Fish 'Baccalà' Mare Nostrum"

Salt cod filet in olive and tomato broth with dried tomato pesto, Noto almonds and the fragrances of Pantelleria.

"An Emilian chef dreams of the Mediterranean sea. Emilia is a landlocked territory, 150 kilometers from either coast where baccalà, or salt cod, has been a culinary staple since the beginning of the salt trade. Instead of battered and fried in the Emilian tradition, Baccalà Mare Nostrum is cooked sous-vide and placed onto an island of dried tomato and almond pesto and surrounded by a fragrant sea of Mediterranean flavors made with tomatoes from Vesuvio, olives from Sicily, and oregano from Puglia. This criss-crossing of continents is one of the reasons Italy has such a rich and various gastronomic history."

"Compression of Pasta and Beans"

"This parfait of pasta and beans, one of the classics of the Italian kitchen, as well as a staple in Emilia, represents my gastronomic heritage in three bites. At the base there is a crème royale I learned at Hôtel de Paris under Alain Ducasse and at the top there is air of rosemary, something I picked up while working with Ferran Adrià. In the middle, there is the pasta — only that I have substituted it with shards of Parmigiano Reggiano crust — boiled with the beans and sliced thinly. This is the emotional part of the dish — what connects me to my heritage and my memories as a child of eating melted Parmigiano crust in minestrone or grilled on the stovetop — this is my grandmother, with her ingenuity and good sense to never through away anything... not even the crust!"

Bottura on the State of Dining in Italy

"Many people think that avant-garde means leaving the past behind, whereas all of us are very dedicated to "reconstructing" the Italian kitchen — not deconstructing it. The Italian kitchen has gone through many evolutions. Heroes such as [Gualtiero] Marchesi [Italy's first three-star chef] are reminders that there is still much work to be done to redefine the Italian kitchen as not only 'grandmother’s comfort food' but as fine dining based on truly exceptional products and harmonious combinations of flavors inherited from Italy’s rich cultural cross-pollination over centuries. This is what we are all aiming to do — bring out the very best of Italy."

Bottura on Process at Osteria Francescana

"Right now in Osteria Francescana, we are re-evaluating Italian classics and the extraordinary ingredients they are made of. These plates fall under the 'Come to Italy with Me' theme, which is actually an invitation to explore Italy with new eyes… and an open mind. Not to look for what you know but to seek out undiscovered flavors."

"Come to Italy with Me"

Buffalo mozzarella foam, smoked Alpeggio ricotta, candied taggiasche olives, candied Bergamot, capers, mint, oregano, hot pepper oil and hazelnuts

"Italy is a country that expresses itself through an incredible variety of culinary ingredients. Come to Italy with Me brings together contrasting elements from the most northern tip of Piedmont to the most southern island of Pantelleria. Too often nations are divided by north and south; this dessert unites and celebrates Italy's excellences, flavors and iconic beauty."

"Trains Depart at Dawn"

"One of my chefs asked me about a new painting in the restaurant.The work is by an Italian artist named Amadeo Martegani.It is a landscape called: 'Trains depart at dawn.'

There are three trains going in different directions, like the way your mind works at 5 am. The chef travels back and forth from Milan to Modena to see his family.The image of the trains connected him to his past and his present.With a handful of ingredients, he began to create the plate: 'Trains Depart at Dawn.'

This recipe is a kind of abstract landscape of cappuccino and cornetto with coffee meringue, chocolate and crunchy biscuit. It reconciles the hard reality of taking a 5 am train with tender and familiar flavors of cappuccino and brioche to evoke sweet warmth.

In my future there is more future.

Maybe that is why I love the metaphor of the trains departing, Like my chefs, departing one after the other, coming into their own day after day, making future out of everything and squeezing so much life into one bite.

If Alberto did not ask me about the painting on the wall, this plate would not exist. Maybe the art on the walls is not a decoration but a way to read our kitchen – our method – and our madness."

Bottura Regarding His Legacy

"'Legacy' is a big word. Becoming a chef was not my first choice. It happened by chance. But I am glad that it did mostly because I am able to speak to so many young chefs around the world and encourage them to follow their dreams. I love entering the kitchen every morning and seeing the crew getting prep started. When the energy and the people are right, there is a real sense of 'nothing is impossible.' The beauty of my job is that it is tangible and intangible at the same time. Walking the fine line between these two worlds, I see so many connections to the arts, music, and literature. And I feel very honored to have a voice in this discussion."

Bottura Regarding the Future

"In my future I see more future. And my best recipe is the one I have yet to make."