Bottura-Jiro, a meeting of giants

Chef from Modena and sushi legend join their knowledge on Friday in Japan. A friendship based on great mutual respect

Massimo Bottura, chef at Osteria Francescana in Mo

Massimo Bottura, chef at Osteria Francescana in Modena; Japanese food writer Matsushiro Yamamoto and Jiro Ono, patron chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo. They’ll take part in "Tradition and development" a talk and cooking session that will take place in Nobeoka, in south Japan, at lunchtime on Friday 4th November. An unprecedented event on which we will report

Only a few days to go until one of the most intense experiences for Massimo Bottura. The chef from Osteria Francescana was invited on the 4th November to Nobeoka, south Japan, for a talk and cook session with legendary Jiro Ono.

Ninety-two years and a few days old, at the helm of Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo since 1965, Jiro is a world sushi icon, not only because of documentary “Jiro dreams of Sushi” which amplified the myth (you can find David Gelb’s film on Vimeo). Nor because of Obama’s ecstatic declarations or because Anthony Bourdain announced he wanted to eat his last meal here, next to the underground stop in Ginza.

«What makes a master of him», says Massimo Bottura, «is the incredible precision he uses with rice. A light acidity wraps the palate and prolongs the salivation in a perfect balance of flavours. There’s no need for more soy sauce apart from the one he already brushed. And wasabi is a sparkle that gives a memorable final kick to a sushi beyond-perfection».

Jiro Ono, born in 1925

Jiro Ono, born in 1925

The chef from Modena dined a dozen times at Jiro’s. «I went the first time», he recreates the timeline of their friendship, «some twenty years ago, on my first visit to Japan. At the time, finding a seat was not as hard as now. We waited and were rewarded. I was impressed but not struck like when I returned with my wife Lara a few years later. I was struck by the obsessive attention to detail. One time, later, I found him at the entrance, waiting for me with a sulk. We were 10 minutes late because of our luggage. ‘The temperature of rice allows no delays’, he complained».

Jiro and Bottura share a relationship that goes beyond respect among colleagues. It is no mystery that Ono once asked his waiter to translate his thoughts and whisper them to the Italian: «In another life, you were Japanese». Or that, more recently, he said «he had the greatest palate in the world». Is it true? «He’s always very kind with me», implicitly confirms Bottura, «But what makes me the happiest is that he accepted to leave his restaurant to come and speak with me and taste my dishes. He never does it».

This will happen on Friday 4th November in Nobeoka, a town in the Miyazaki prefecture, in southern Japan. The meeting will be the focal moment of the International culinary conference. Japanese food writer Matsushiro Yamamoto will moderate the keynote talk titled “Tradition and development”. «He got the idea. He listened to a speech I gave at Yukio Hattori’s school in Tokyo. I was speaking of tradition and obsession for quality. He told me these were concepts he had always heard Jiro speak of. So we organised this panel».

Massimo Bottura at Jiro’s, on the 20th July 2017. He writes on Instagram: "On my own in the temple of sushi. A mystic experience". In the picture, Yoshikazu Ono, son and designated heir of Sukiyabashi Jiro

Massimo Bottura at Jiro’s, on the 20th July 2017. He writes on Instagram: "On my own in the temple of sushi. A mystic experience". In the picture, Yoshikazu Ono, son and designated heir of Sukiyabashi Jiro

After the discussion, Bottura and his staff will cook 3 dishes: «We will present all our ideas in depth. We will present two culinary traditions that are much more similar than one would imagine: Japan and Italy share the same obsession for ingredients and a similar use of technique, enough to sublimate raw materials. Two approaches that differ from French and Chinese cuisine, which are also similar: they both use more technique and sometimes use invasive sauces».

There will be a prologue, on Thursday 3rd November in Tokyo: the chef from Modena will present his “Osteria Francescana, numero uno del mondo” on the 24th floor of the Peninsula hotel. He wrote the book in the mother tongue of Japanese journalist Masakatsu Ikeda, who’s been reporting from Emilia for 20 years. We at Identità will be there reporting on the entire event.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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