Bottura-Humm: tradition in evolution

In the lesson by two friends joint by a great talent, one hour of reflections and fun

by Gabriele Zanatta
Massimo Bottura and Daniel Humm, Osteria Francesca

Massimo Bottura and Daniel Humm, Osteria Francescana in Modena and Eleven Madison Park in New York. They are joint by a profound friendship which was reaffirmed during the lesson at Eataly today, what with Livornese-style red mullet, roasted chicken and fertile considerations on the future of cuisine

«We’re here to show that Italy can go far beyond tradition, grandmothers’ food, pasta and pizza». Paolo Marchi opens the third day of Identità New York with two great protagonists of international cuisine, separated by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean: Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Modena and Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York, a short walk from here. «I don’t know why I’m involved, among all these Italians», says a teasing Humm and he will joke frequently during the lesson, the proof of a sincere friendship with the Skinny Italian chef.

You cannot trust Bottura when he introduces a red mullet, the first dish presented today. Because it is a red mullet in camouflage, the famous Livornese-style one, a great classic Italian dish but only when you give it a superficial look. «We open it, we remove the fishbone and analyse it. It has a bitter aftertaste which we balance with the sweetness of a lobster cream. Then comes the crunchiness given by the piece of bread placed on the skin, to be dipped in the sauce». The sauce in the dish (fishbone, parsley, white wine, tomato, extra virgin olive oil…) will do the rest.

THE CHICKEN OF THE ORIGINS. Daniel Humm’s Roasted chicken with black truffle and brioche stuffing

THE CHICKEN OF THE ORIGINS. Daniel Humm’s Roasted chicken with black truffle and brioche stuffing

This preparation offers him the chance to present his book “Never trust a skinny Italian chef” (published by Phaidon. The Italian title, out at the end of the month, will be “Vieni in Italia con me”) «A perfect example of “Tradition in evolution” the book’s first chapter. That is to say, we take a step backward in order to frame our cuisine in a critical, non-nostalgic way. We take the best from the past in order to transfer it into the future». The gleam of the chef from Modena after the fog, a photo that dominates two pages at the beginning.

Daniel Humm friendly makes fun of him («You don’t really want the guests to smell your fish-stinking hands, do you?») but then he conveys his endless compliments: «Writing a book like the one by Massimo means writing a mile stone in the history of cuisine, his own and not only that. You should all visit the Francescana, it’s one of the most beautiful and important places in the world’s cuisine».

Then came the chicken made by the Swiss chef, the biggest in all the United States, the mythological one he serves at NoMad, roasted with black truffle and brioche. «It’s almost like the one my mother used to prepare when I was a child, in the small town near Zurich where I grew up. She only made it on special occasions. It is in my heart and in my background». A tip for all: «The real bird should not weigh 5 but 3 pounds (more or less 1.3 kg; not 2.3). Here in the United States labels are misleading: they write they are raised in small farms but then, if you go searching for them, you find out they don’t exist».

BREAD IS GOLD. Bread, water and sugar, Massimo Bottura’s dessert for the Expo

BREAD IS GOLD. Bread, water and sugar, Massimo Bottura’s dessert for the Expo

Humm riddles a lemon with holes, he puts it inside the chicken and then he ties it with a string from the neck to the suspended legs. It will stay in the oven for 35 minutes. During which he reveals: «We’re writing a book which will be out next autumn. ‘Are you sure you want to disclose your secrets?’ some have asked me. Of course, cuisine lives on this». This is what he did here at Eataly and we’re all happy about it. And even Bottura lights up: «The first thing Ducasse asked me to cook when I went to work with him was indeed a Roasted Chicken».

The final closure is again by the Italian chef, who presents Bread, water and sugar, a dessert that allows him to communicate the project with Refettorio Ambrosiano conceived by the Archdioceses in Milan for the duration of the Expo.«This dish finely explains what a chef can do with nothing. That is to say a lot». The delicious bread ice cream is covered with a crispy layer of gold, to sublimate the absolute value of poverty. «Every day, across the world, 1.3 millions of tons of food are thrown away. There’s no more time for wasting. Our pavilion in the Greco district will have the goal of explaining this. And to give value to wastes, for students and homeless, with recipes signed by the greatest chefs in the world».


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