Massimo Bottura and Mario Batali create kitchen alchemy
Trash-bound ingredients take on a whole new life in the Skinny Italian chef's Bread is Gold book
Massimo Bottura owes his career to Mario Batali. Before Bottura’s Osteria Francescana topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Bottura kept his restaurant going selling his family’s own small-batch balsamic vinegar – a business venture Batali first suggested to the Modena chef. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Mario,” says Massimo in his new book, Bread is Gold.
This simple, clear-sighted view of the food market is typical of Batali. The talented Italian-American is a great chef, a likeable TV personality, a canny restaurateur, an astute businessman, a kind-hearted philanthropist, and an obvious kitchen guest for Refettorio Ambroisano, the haute-cuisine soup kitchen Bottura set up in 2015 to turn trash-bound ingredients into food for Milan’s poor.
In Bread is Gold, our new book about Massimo’s ongoing venture, Bottura recalls Batali telling him how, as a child, Mario would well up with joy when he saw the windows of his family home covered in mist, as this meant his mother had been cooking pasta for supper. “I love this image” says Massimo. “It is exactly the feeling that we wanted to create for our guests at the Refettorio: A place where there was something to look forward to at the end of a long day.”
On the day Mario came to cook, he certainly gave the diners that, turning five chickens into a vegetable-laden communal coq au vin, and even butchering the birds to make them go around a little further. The chef also whipped a couple of stale panettone into a marvellous almond bread pudding, and paired spare pasta with an innovative potato and tomato sauce.
The recipes were filling, healthy and inventive. “Two panettone became bread pudding for an army,” recalls Massimo, “five chickens ended up feeding over one hundred people, and there was pasta for second and third helpings.” There was even a little steam thrown in too, perhaps bringing a tear to Mario’s eye, and maybe some of the Refettorio’s guests too.
Check back soon for further tales of gastronomic alchemy courtesy of Massimo and his fellow world-famous chefs; you can read about the strawberry gazpacho Daniel Humm conjured out of food waste here; René Redzepi's burnt lime soup here; check out the popcorn chicken recipe Alex Atala created here; and to recreate the recipes and learn more about the ideas behind the Refettorio order a copy of Bread is Gold here.