Massimo Bottura: 'There will always be a future in our future'

A chat with the chef from Francescana: a live interview on Instagram with Paolo Marchi, followed by an off-air

20-03-2020
Massimo Bottura, in a frame from one of the many l

Massimo Bottura, in a frame from one of the many live videos shared on his Instagram account 

«I’m not a genius, not at all. I’m only a cook with lots of positive energy. I try to convey it in everything I do». This is only one of the things that Massimo Bottura said the other day to the many people who were following the live interview on Instagram, through the @IdentitaGolose channel, led by our director Paolo Marchi. It was the first in a series of live conversations, each day at 4 pm CET for a week, whose programme you will find at the end of this article.

A statement which he said in a moment of pause, due to the surcharge of bandwidth that forced us to interrupt the live broadcast and continue the interview with Bottura in a more traditional way. Few words that sum up the spirit that has always characterised Massimo Bottura, from his debut to his moment of highest acclaim, and which guides him to this day, to these difficult days.

And which leads him to invite thousands of people each night at 8 pm, on his Instagram channel, for Kitchen Quarantine. A home cooking show, with pure family warmth, in which Bottura presented and will continue to present, simple, convivial dishes.

«There is no inspiration to follow in these recipes - Bottura explained after the live interview with Paolo Marchi – because these are not masterclasses. It’s a way to share a difficult moment with the entire world, to give everyone an example of what we can do at home, while having fun together. Moments when my son Charlie becomes a protagonist who inspires smiles and fun, with his pyjama, or when my daughter Alexa turns into the speaker, the voice-over presenting those 15 minutes of fun madness in the kitchen. There’s not a real theme, even though of course cooking with poor ingredients and with left over ingredients is prominent, as it is very important to me. Tonight [Monday night for our readers] for instance, I will toast the peel of all the peas I opened, I will add them to the stalks of the asparagus, and will make a broth which I will then use to make risotto with peas and asparagus. In the same way in which I made passatelli with left over bread, and tomorrow I will make a rather spicy minestrone by transforming the Thai vegetable curry we made the first night of Kitchen Quarantine, using all the leftover food in the fridge».

The Bottura family in their home kitchen, hosting Kitchen Quarantine, live each night at 8 pm CET. With the chef, left, children Charlie and Alexa and wife Lara Gilmore (photo Fine Dining Lovers)

The Bottura family in their home kitchen, hosting Kitchen Quarantine, live each night at 8 pm CET. With the chef, left, children Charlie and Alexa and wife Lara Gilmore (photo Fine Dining Lovers)

Fun and conviviality that emerge in a time of crisis. The conversation with Paolo Marchi started with the idea of trying to draw the best and the most from these difficult times: «These days, the world has become smaller, and it’s true – Bottura said. - But it’s also become larger, in a way. In a situation like this one, when they’re taking everything from us, we’re left with few things, but they are essential things. It’s like when we cook: at Francescana we always take off all the superfluous seeking the essence. The same thing is happening with our lives, the essence remains: our home, our family. Hence the idea returns, as in the old days, of meeting all around the table. But this table, today, thanks to the tools we have, can become infinite. Thousands and thousands of people can sit around it. Being on live stream on Instagram and reading the comments arriving from all around the world is a privilege, it gives me great energy. We’re all in our homes, but we’re all capable of communicating with the entire world. Let’s try to draw the best from what we have: like when we were kids and the can of a soft drink was enough to start a football match in the courtyard».

A frame from the live interview with Paolo Marchi and Massimo Bottura

A frame from the live interview with Paolo Marchi and Massimo Bottura

Among the essential things to valorise in this time, for Massimo Bottura as well as for Identità Golose, there’s the sense of responsibility. This will be the theme of the congress that we have postponed to the days from the 3rd to the 5th of July, and most of all it is what inspired the choices of Bottura and of his team in these complicated days: «I remember that moment, on Saturday night, when Lombardy and even Modena became a red zone. We were fully booked everywhere: at Francescana, at Casa Maria Luigia, at Franceschetta. Then came the news, and panic spread. During the previous days our public had changed: first came the cancellations from international clients, then from Italian ones. We were full thanks to the people of Modena, who supported us. On Monday, after that weekend, I spoke with Beppe Palmieri, with Enrico Vignoli, I talked to all the brigade before making a final decision. I told them that to me the team was more important than anything else: I decided to close because I could not imagine that our work would cause someone in the brigade to get ill, and the virus would spread among us. All the guys thanked me with extraordinary words. I am convinced that each one of them would have continued to work with enthusiasm, but hiding some fear as well. That was not a time to think about serving food. We will have many more opportunities to do so, and we will return, stronger».

Bottura live with Kitchen Quarantine

Bottura live with Kitchen Quarantine

A stop, a knock back. But also a way to find new energy, strength, determination: «Only if you return stronger, you’ll be able to survive such a crisis. I don’t believe everything will be overturned: this morning I was speaking with some very important people, they told me that to start over we’ll need to wait for August. I honestly hope this will be sooner, but whenever this will be, we must be ready. To be so, we must keep our teams close, we must pamper them and respect them, safeguard the team as much as possible. And those who are part of the team will always be grateful for this, when we will start again they will do all they can».

It’s important to point out that at a time like this Massimo Bottura has chosen not to fire any of the people who work for his establishments: «For me it would be a real dishonour to send people home, or put them on unemployment benefits so I don’t have to pay them. It’s logic, and I want to underline this clearly, that some will need to do so to continue to exist, I know and I fully understand it. But if you’re in our position, if you’ve managed to work well and if you’ve had the chance to hide some hay in the barn, this is the time to use those savings, to keep everyone together and face the difficulties. And not only don’t I fire anyone: I’m sure we will start again with even more people, because I’m sure that when we will open again we will have so much energy to show that we will need even more people. So I ask all who are writing me to contact Enrico Vignoli and our team, because we have plenty of projects in mind. In our future, there will always be a future, we always look ahead».

Bottura in his kitchen at home

Bottura in his kitchen at home

Without, clearly, hiding the current difficulties. The opening of the Gucci Osteria by Massimo Bottura in Los Angeles, which has just closed because of the emergency, is a very close memory, and even in Dubai – where Bottura opened Torno Subito, inside hotel W Dubai – The Palm – the situation looks complicated: «In Los Angeles we closed, but the staff continues to work for now. There’s a little confusion there, we’re trying to understand what’s best to do. Right now, they are making "tortellini to go", with cream of parmigiano, with which they want to charm all of L.A., and some fantastic apple tarts made by Tamara RigoBernardo Paladini, chef at Torno Subito, tells me tourism in Dubai has curbed dramatically. According to some people, Emirates is about to close the airport: the situation is really difficult».

The map of Food For Soul’s Refettori and Social Tables around the world 

The map of Food For Soul’s Refettori and Social Tables around the world 

And the same applies to another project by Massimo Bottura. Perhaps the one he holds most dear: Food For Soul, with his wife Lara Gilmore, with the Refettori already open in Milan, London, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and others almost ready to open: «This is the most difficult topic, and the most important too. It’s the poor who suffer the most. Those who don’t have a home, those who have to find some makeshift accommodation, and don’t know what to eat. We had to close the Refettori, even the one in Paris. Right now we cannot offer that service to the poor. Today, I should have been in Mexico, in Mérida, to open a new Refettorio, which has been ready for around a week. We cannot do it now, but even in this case we’ll return as strong as ever».

Identità Golose has an appointment with Massimo Bottura, during the 16th edition of the Congress, from the 3rd to the 5th of July, dedicated to the Sense of Responsibility: «Yes, we’ll meet in Milan, on the stage of Identità. I will be there with Larato speak about our work with Food For Soul, and there will also be the girls and boys from Tortellante. The entire team will be there, plus some more people. Because in our future there is always future».

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

The next episodes with Paolo Marchi’s interviews, live on the @IdentitaGolose Instagram account:

- Friday 20th, 4 pm CET - CARLO CRACCO
- Saturday 21st, 4 pm CET - CRISTINA BOWERMAN
- Sunday 22nd, 4 pm CET - PINO CUTTAIA


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