Massimo Bottura sees the world like few others. His passion for food is not only compelling but it is also contagious. You only need to see him in action live or on a television programme to realise that he has this capacity to stir emotions in people which is second to none.
That he is passionate about cooking and food is no secret. But what few know is that one of the biggest secrets to his success is his wife Lara Gilmore, an American who he met in New York.
This Italian restaurant in the city of Modena is probably one of the most famous restaurants in the world. It is listed as the world’s 3rd best restaurant in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, has three Michelin stars and has really put Italy at the top of the world’s league.
While many are in love with Italian food, very few tend to associate Italian cuisine with innovation and avant garde cuisine.
What Massimo Bottura has done is change all this in a country which does not like to mess with ‘grandmother’s recipe’ as the Italian chef likes to say.
While Massimo Bottura’s book Never Trust a Skinny Chef, which we have also reviewed here, tells the story of the restaurant mainly through Bottura’s creations, David Gelb’s documentary brings you this chef’s life story. It is really an interesting one and reveals some of the secrets behind Bottura’s unique way of thinking.
There is no question that very few chefs in the world would get away with a creation like ‘Oops I broke the lemon tart’ which is a recreation of an incident that took place in Osteria Francescana’s kitchen.
For many years, Bottura has been misunderstood in Italy to the extent that he even thought of quitting and closing his restaurant only to be persuaded by his wife to keep going for another year. She told him he would regret it if he had stopped at this stage. Give it another year, she told him. Luckily, for the gastronomic world, he persevered.
The start was difficult but as time went by and as he started to get noticed, fortunes turned and his restaurant in this beautiful Italian city started to get noticed. It is safe to say that a table at Osteria Francescana is one of the most sought after in the world.
David Gelb, the creator of six documentaries entitled Chef’s Table which debuted on Netflix on 26 April needs no introduction to food documentaries. He is famous for the incredibly successful Jiro Dreams of Sushi, his 2011 documentary featuring Tokyo’s most famous sushi master Jiro Ono.
With Bottura, he has done a brilliant job of bringing out the human story behind this great Italian chef. He takes us into Bottura’s world, his love of art and music and his incredible love for his region and its ingredients.
The documentary starts with the earthquake which shook his region in May 2012. Many wheels of parmiggiano reggiano cheese had been damaged as they faced a disaster. 360,000 wheels of cheese had been damaged and that could have spelled the end of parmiggiano reggiano. What he did was a recipe of risotto with cacio e pepe using rice with parmesan which was cooked around the world from London to New York. “On that day, 40,000 people were eating risotto. All the wheels were sold and no one lost a job. It was a recipe as a social gesture,” which depicts the generosity of this chef.
That is one of the reasons why he very often says that ‘in my blood there is balsamic vinegar, my muscles are made of parmiggiano reggiano’.
Gelb has depicted the importance of his wife in the success of Bottura and Osteria Francescana. When you watch this documentary you can see that he is doing that no one else is doing. Today he is an icon not only in Italy but also in the world. But for many years, he was considered a traitor by his compatriots as few seemed to understand what he was trying to do.
There is no question, this is undoubtedly one of the best programmes on food I’ve seen on television.