Bottura, crowned also at university

The chef has just received an honorary degree in Bologna: «But when I opened they said I’d close in six month’s time»

06-02-2017

Massimo Bottura receives the honorary degree in Bologna. To his left, dean Francesco Ubertini, right, professor Max Bergami

Massimo Bottura received the Honorary Degree in Management in the Aula Magna Santa Lucia in Bologna, handed by dean Francesco Ubertini. Professor Max Bergami pronounced the laudation. This is the lectio magistralis from the chef. Congratulations from all of us at Identità Golose. (Paolo Marchi)

Good evening. My mother Luisa would be so thrilled to see me here. So I would like to dedicate this accomplishment, extremely prestigious and unexpected, to HER.

Twenty-two years ago, on the 9th of March 1995, I opened Osteria Francescana in a small street in the centre of Modena. There were three people in the kitchen and one, two maximum, in the dining room. After eight years in the countryside at Trattoria del Campazzo, which everyone thought would last six months, and one year spent cooking in New York, I had big dreams for this Osteria but nothing could have prepared me for the sacrifices, the disappointments, the difficulties I would face in the following years. And equally nothing could prepare me for the surprises awaiting me because after the first years of loss, debts, invisibility, who would have thought we would have climbed the list, received stars, hats and forks!

In fact, I like to consider Osteria Francescana, like many of the restaurants now associated with the Nuova Cucina Italiana, not just an iconic restaurant but a Renaissance workshop. We have created a laboratory of ideas where every day we create culture but we also work side by side with agriculture, as we’ve become the spokesmen of a new generation of farmers, breeders, artisans, who grew side by side with us, sharing our philosophy. They are real heroes, allowing us to convey emotions through the raw materials we find every day on our working stations.

Together, we’ve created a new type of tourism: gastronomic tourism. Its goal is discovering a territory, with the climax reached during the visit to a significant restaurant, being charmed by chewing its best expression. We are entrepreneurs of what’s beautiful and good. It is no coincidence that in the past few years the forces drawing the economy were excellences connected with taste and Made in Italy, an extraordinary trademark, immediately recognisable all over the world. Small businesses and their competitiveness are unique and easy to spot in their constant research for surprise, in their desire to excel, in their ability to present our country and fully express its beauty.

A picture Massimo Bottura holds especially dear. It was taken in 1996 only one year after opening Osteria Francescana in Modena. It shows the most important women in his life, starting from his mother Maria Luigia Bernardoni on the right, whom most knew as Luisa. She passed away at 89, in January, 3 years ago. In the centre, Lara Gilmore and to the left Lidia Cristoni, the historic cook who taught Bottura the ropes at Trattoria di Campazzo (she participated in the ceremony in Bologna). The women in the picture are in fact four as Lara, at the time of the photo, was expecting Alexa, the firstborn in the Bottura family

A picture Massimo Bottura holds especially dear. It was taken in 1996 only one year after opening Osteria Francescana in Modena. It shows the most important women in his life, starting from his mother Maria Luigia Bernardoni on the right, whom most knew as Luisa. She passed away at 89, in January, 3 years ago. In the centre, Lara Gilmore and to the left Lidia Cristoni, the historic cook who taught Bottura the ropes at Trattoria di Campazzo (she participated in the ceremony in Bologna). The women in the picture are in fact four as Lara, at the time of the photo, was expecting Alexa, the firstborn in the Bottura family

In these places we obviously do Training. People from all around the world come full of dreams, energy and positivity. These young people arrive in Modena expecting to work and learn in the best restaurant in the world. Truth is that they don’t focus on technique, but on the expression of the culture. Every day we enter the kitchen with DOUBT and we ask ourselves: What does it mean to be a contemporary restaurant in Italy in the 21st Century? How can an image, a mistake or a piece of jazz become edible? Can we translate our personal history into dishes and culinary concepts? Indeed, through culture as a motivational force!

Joseph Beuys was one of the most important artists in the 20th Century. He said: «When aesthetics coincide with man, in that instant every man is an artist. It’s simply a matter of describing human nature». Our cooking is not a recipe book, a list or ingredients or the proof of technical skills. It is a way of presenting our territory and our passions. Beuys said that «The nature of my sculpture is never set nor finite. It is a continuous natural process, chemical reactions, fermentations, changes in colour, drying, decomposition, everything is in a state of change».

So how can we apply these theories to raw materials, ingredients, using them respectfully? And are we sure that tradition is really respectful of raw materials? A dish like ‘Cinque stagionature del Parmigiano Reggiano in consistenze e temperature’ that is to say the celebration of cheese producers from the Apennines to river Po, fog, long maturation, the slow flowing of time in Emilia: this is the answer.

Osteria Francescana is a small restaurant with big dreams thanks to the fact we work as one whole thing evolving and growing constantly. Our work acquires significance through all the interactions, contaminations and reciprocities that define us as a team. No element can work by itself, without the support of the others.

Everyday we welcome guests from all over the world. We enjoy observing them at the entrance, before they enter the restaurant; seeing the expectations in their eyes, sometimes even the slight tiredness of the journey from another continent made to come and dine here, in Modena. And I’m not the only one taking care of them: there’s the synchronised work of almost fifty people what with dining room, kitchen and office. An impressive behind the scenes.

In Bologna Massimo Bottura was celebrated not only by all the staff at Osteria Francescana, but also by numerous chefs and patrons (Massimiliano Alajmo, Antonio Santini, Ciccio Sultano, Moreno Cedroni, Mauro Uliassi, Andrea Berton, Aurora Mazzucchelli, Massimo Spigaroli, Cristina Bowerman, Riccardo Gaspari, Gennaro Esposito, Davide Oldani, Antonello Magistà, Pino Cuttaia, Enrico Cerea, Terry Giacomello, brothers Nicola and Pierluigi Portinari, brothers Riccardo and Giancarlo Camanini…), minister Maurizio Martina representing the government, Oscar Farinetti of Eataly and the ex prime minister Romano Prodi

In Bologna Massimo Bottura was celebrated not only by all the staff at Osteria Francescana, but also by numerous chefs and patrons (Massimiliano Alajmo, Antonio Santini, Ciccio Sultano, Moreno Cedroni, Mauro Uliassi, Andrea Berton, Aurora Mazzucchelli, Massimo Spigaroli, Cristina Bowerman, Riccardo Gaspari, Gennaro Esposito, Davide Oldani, Antonello Magistà, Pino Cuttaia, Enrico Cerea, Terry Giacomello, brothers Nicola and Pierluigi Portinari, brothers Riccardo and Giancarlo Camanini…), minister Maurizio Martina representing the government, Oscar Farinetti of Eataly and the ex prime minister Romano Prodi

We believe every service is like the finals in the Champions League. You may win or lose (we like to win). Sometimes we’re brilliant, sometimes we’re less so. What’s important is that we play with our heart and mind. We’re self-critical; we want to improve and move forward. Our ambition to win every game, every service, every challenge so as not to lose self confidence, that’s what’s important, because there’s nothing like winning, like a perfect night, a sublime dish, the joy of succeeding together. These feelings last a lifetime; they fight tiredness, exceed every award. These are the satisfactions of a fully lived life. And there’s no satisfaction if you don’t share it with others.

Our research leads us in many different directions but we always keep well in mind where we stand, in space and time. We know our place in the world and it is essential in order to keep always space for the unexpected and for poetry. A dish like “Oops, mi è caduta la crostatina al limone” is poetry. Lemons from Sorrento, wild oregano from Vendicari, capers from Pantelleria, almonds from Noto, pepone materano, bergamot from Calabria. An intense dish as well as a breaking point between sweet and savoury. A perfect reconstruction of the imperfect.

When we speak of Oops! we also speak of the capacity of knowing how to make mistakes; of being able to grasp the light in the darkness along the creative journey; of welcoming a stumble upon the unexpected. Only in this way you can see the world from a different perspective. See everything from the point of view of a child looking at the world from under the table.

I, and all of us, wouldn’t be here if we didn’t look at the world with curiosity each day. We must put ourselves in the condition to learn, understand the world, with our mind and open eyes. A knowledge that doesn’t derive only from external influences, but spurs from sharing the talent of passionate people, who work with humbleness so as to reach the same dream.

Being aware of what you’ve accomplished and how you did so. Through which special talent or natural attitude. As an individual but most of all as a team. Acknowledging the passion, commitment that make our work unique and immediately recognisable. It is essential to recognise ourselves as a team, even before being part of a company.

La patata che voleva essere un tartufo, one of the signature dishes that Massimo Bottura recalled during his lectio magistralis at the univeristy of Bologna on Monday 6th February. He presented it during the first edition of Identità Londra in 2010 in London

La patata che voleva essere un tartufo, one of the signature dishes that Massimo Bottura recalled during his lectio magistralis at the univeristy of Bologna on Monday 6th February. He presented it during the first edition of Identità Londra in 2010 in London

Being aware you’re part of a family sharing the same values that characterise your sense of responsibility. When you realise you have received everything from life, at that moment, if you’re a cultured person, you also realise it’s time to give back. We promote agriculture, we develop tourism and offer training. We’ve discovered the enormous social potential we can offer our communities.

Always guided by the same passion, the same attention to beauty, we can indeed express ourselves through new forms of charities that move the focus and lead us out of our kitchen and far away from our daily life, in the suburbs, in marginalised neighbourhoods, in all the abandoned places. Our goal with Refettori is not to feed those in need, but to fill their eyes with beauty, nourish their body and soul, making them feel welcome. We can bring a message of hope.

Culture. Knowledge. Awareness. Sense of responsibility.

My mother used to tell me incredible tales of the countryside in Mantua, of the farmers looking for truffles and boiling them, convinced they were crazy potatoes. In the hills above Bologna there are fabulous potatoes, potatoes from Montese. We imagined how our humble potato would dream of becoming a glorious truffle and so as to make its dream come true, it would roll in powdered hazelnuts, it would empty itself and then fill itself with a delicious soufflé.
Guests are invited to eat everything, including the peel.

There are two surprising elements in this dessert. First: its naked truth. Many are shocked to be served a baked potato: it’s certainly not beautiful in a classical sense, it’s strange and menacing. It looks like an Arte Povera sculpture. No fireworks, not magic tricks. A baked potato and that’s it. Second: it’s delicious. Possibly the best potato there is. We started off with the desire of celebrating truffles, we ended up paying a tribute to something radically different: humbleness. We can’t all be truffles, most of us are potatoes. Being a potato is nice. Thank you mum.

Massimo Bottura


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