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Culture, contamination, goodness: Massimo Bottura’s 9th time at Identità New York

Welcoming, building bridges, breaking down walls. The chef from Modena conquered the audience at Eataly Flatiron with 3 dishes-messages

Massimo Bottura, 56 last September 30th, at Eatal

Massimo Bottura, 56 last September 30th, at Eataly Flatiron’s Scuola (photo from Brambilla/Serrani)

«I’m here because I want to be here». Massimo Bottura landed at JFK only two hours earlier. But this is his stage and of course his speech was all but quiet, for his ninth lesson in a row at Identità New York.

The spurs mocking the jet lag are two: «Cultura, the power behind every dish we make. And contamination, which breaks every wall at a time when people are building walls all the time». A «wise contamination», that greets the future, «that chooses the words we pronounce each day at Refettorio and Osteria Francescana: Hello andgoodbye, two words with a very deep meaning».

Contamination is about stealing, but in the way Picasso did with Raffaello: «It’s not a question of copying but of absorbing ideas. Completing oneself through travelling. Assimilating ideas only to forget them. Evolve, that is to say keep your eyes always open, never forgetting who you are and where you’re going». The old mantra.

MAKE WAY FOR THE YOUNG GENERATIONS. Behind Bottura, his second Davide Di Fabio and Francesco Vincenzi, in the kitchen at Franceschetta 58

MAKE WAY FOR THE YOUNG GENERATIONS. Behind Bottura, his second Davide Di Fabio and Francesco Vincenzi, in the kitchen at Franceschetta 58

Two were the edible high notes taken in the vertical menu at Eataly Flatiron. Rice between duck à l’orange and Peking duck, the latest "savoury" in the meaty 2017/2018 menu in Via Stella, focused on game. A crossover where a wild duck, Peking style, meets a canard à l’orange; but with local spices from Modena. The rice is cooked in orange, in a way similar to Mantuan tortelli. Worlds apart meet under the guide of a classic dish from both sides of the Po river: pumpkin risotto.

«Our risotto differs greatly from tradition: there’s no broth, no white wine or onion, no excruciating process. This is because orthodoxy does not respect rice». We press the oranges; pumpkin, almonds and amaretti are placed in the oven and then in the blender with a little salt. We add the spiciness and sweetness of a mostardamade with Campanine apples. Once the rice is toasted, we add a light duck stock and the orange juice. On the other side, we make a duck that’s like the classic Peking one, with daikon. And we finish the rice with extra virgin olive oil (no butter or cream) and the orange cooked in the oven and dehydrated for one week. Neatness, taste, lightness. This shows that technique has a meaning «but only if it exalts the product, not the chef’s ego».

Two important intermezzi interrupt the lesson. The first is on the near future of Refettorio: «We’re about to open the first Refettorio on American soil. It will be in San Francisco and one of its greatest supporters is Laurene Powell JobsSteve’s wife. We’ll have volunteers from all around the world. Then we’ll open in Naples and in Merida, Mexico. People’s enthusiasm is incredible».

With Carlo Cracco

With Carlo Cracco

Same rice, double version, as a dessert too 

Same rice, double version, as a dessert too 

Right after that, Carlo Cracco appears on the doorstep (his lesson is scheduled today at noon) and Bottura calls him «In the Nineties, we had a rough time, with Carlo and Davide Scabin. Today we’re all together, as close as ever». «You are simply the best», replies the chef from Vicenza.

But the rice epic is hardly over. They now serve a risotto based on the previous one, but adding a blended apple mostardaplus all the elements of a panettone on the base of the plate: orange, bergamot, candied lemon. On top, a classic civet, finished with chocolate and coffee. «A classic, Bocuse-style sauce, completed with a contemporary mind». Rice turns into a dessert. A preview of a special delicacy we’ll find at Francescana as of next week.

Second dish in the menu: Spaghetti Pop Corn, served in the classic paper bag, like at the cinema. It’s a parody of Fettuccine Alfredo, with butter and Parmigiano, a non-Italian classic. «When I was working in New York, my boss of the time, Ray Costantini, asked me to make them and I replied: fuck you, this is not an Italian dish. It’s an abstract dish of spaghetti». And here go a thousand anecdotes from the chef’s past, a pinball bouncing always between the two continents.

Spaghetti Pop-Corn

Spaghetti Pop-Corn

Wise contaminations, indeed, which today give life to a dish with spaghetti Felicetti, left on purpose to cook a few moments more than necessary (Alfredo didn’t know the meaning of al dente) and an emulsion of Grana Padano water, niosette butter and capon broth with popcorns sprinkled on top.

«Always be ready for the unexpected», said Bottura at the end. «I especially say this to young people. Contrary to what people say, new generations are not always looking at their mobile phones. They have much more to say than what we believe. I’d say thanking my team is the perfect way to end this lesson».

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

At the end of the lesson, a birthday cheesecake handed by Cristina Cavalchini Guidobuono of Riso Buono

At the end of the lesson, a birthday cheesecake handed by Cristina Cavalchini Guidobuono of Riso Buono

Primo piano

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Gabriele Zanatta

born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes. 
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