Phaidon Outtakes #3 Massimo and the mozzarella
Our Skinny Chef has reinvented Italian cuisine, but he still delights in the arrival of some simple produce
What does Ai Weiwei’ Dropping a Han Urn artwork have in common with Italy? According to Massimo Bottura, they’re both broken. He likens his country's current state to the Chinese artist’s famous act of dropping a ancient urn in the Come To Italy With Me chapter of Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef.
Only, Bottura laments, “we did not need to drop Italy – it was already broken. Violated by years of political corruption and loss of identity, it needed to be put back together again.”
This notion inspired the suite of dishes - including Mont Blanc, Think Green and Noah's Ark - that rework the country’s staple ingredients in new and innovative ways. Espresso, sardines and tortellini all feature among them, yet he’s also turned his attention to Italy’s best-loved soft cheese.
Bottura’s Modena restaurant, Osteria Francescana, cooks with high-quality, buffalo mozzarella, made traditionally in the Campagna region of southern Italy. However, his treatment of the stuff is far from conventional. As a chef, Bottura has turned mozzarella into a foam, worked it into a milky risotto, and sandwiched it between macaron wafers.
In this clip – shot during our promotional filming for Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef – he doesn’t over complicate the enjoyment of so primal an Italian produce. Pulling it straight out of the crate, he proclaims the cheese is “fresh today”, before sharing his Osteria Francescana staff, including Japanese sous-chef Taka, and Jessica, the restaurant's Canadian chef de partie.
It’s an international team, working in the kind of modern restaurant that would befit any first-world city, from Singapore to Sydney. Yet Bottura still delights in the simple pleasures drawn from the Italian countryside, even if he does rework them in incredible new ways.
If you’d like to know more about Massimo's life, work and outlook, buy a copy of Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef here.