Massimo Bottura with his Carlo Benvenuto bicchieri sculptures

Phaidon Outtakes #4 Massimo Bottura and poetry

Spend a little time in contemplation, and “the 25 cent glass can become a piece of art" says our skinny Italian chef

Did you catch René Redzepi on BBC’s Desert Island Discs earlier this year? When he wasn’t describing how to prepare Chicken of the Woods mushrooms or wishing for a single day of snow each year, the world-renowned chef was praising the virtues of idleness. This might seem strange for someone who has achieved so much in such a short amount of time, yet Redzepi insists that he and his staff take four or five weeks off each year. “I think if you want to have a joyous, creative life,” he said, “that’s what you need, you need vacation.”

This sentiment is shared by another great gastronomic innovator (and Phaidon author), Massimo Bottura. In this, our latest outtake from our recent video shoot in Modena, Massimo considers why, in his professional life, downtime is important too. But Massimo isn’t describing a month spent on the beaches of Mexico, but rather the briefer moments of quiet contemplation within our daily lives.


Massimo Bottura and poetry


“Leave a little space in your life for poetry,” he implores, “free from the obligations of everything you have to do." Though don’t reach for that short collection of Gertrude Stein just yet; Massimo is using the term in quite a loose, lyrical sense, praising the poetic mindset. To demonstrate his point he picks up bicchieri, a small, solid Murano crystal sculpture made by his friend and the photographic contributor to his book, Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef, Carlo Benvenuto. The work is modelled on an inexpensive drinking vessel, yet it uses Arte Povera-style tactics to bring something meaningful and deep to the everyday. Massimo’s point? Only in contemplation can we find beauty and meaning. Spend a little time in contemplation, and “the little 25 cent glass can become a piece of art.” If you’d like to know more about Massimo's life, work, food and outlook, buy a copy of Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef here.