It was an experience that I will always cherish and it is one of the reasons (though the story is much more complicated than that) why Food and Wine Gazette was born.
We are still months away from our first year anniversary of Food and Wine Gazette, but 9th May marks a very important milestone for me. Years earlier, when the word foodie was still not mainstream as it is today, I had set myself two targets when it came to experiencing Italian cuisine, that of eating at Fulvio Pierangelini’s Gambero Rosso and at Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana.
Both chefs have been extremely important for contemporary Italian cuisine though the styles cannot be more different to each other.
Having eaten at Gambero Rosso a few years before it closed for ever, the visit to Massimo Bottura marked an important milestone for someone who loves the purity and tradition of Italian cuisine.
It is still hard to pinpoint exactly how my passion for food and wine developed, though it now dates nearly 20 years. For most of these 20 years, I was building my knowledge on food and wine, reading, experimenting, cooking, attending courses.
But the past year has taken a completely different direction. Because, for the first time, I have been able to combine my passion for food and wine with that of writing which was my first profession as a journalist. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that this would be possible. A year later, I have written nearly every day, in my free time, trying to find interesting stories while at the same time learning more about what is ultimately my greatest passion.
What did the experience at Osteria Francescana have to do with all of this? A lot I would say. It all started with watching Massimo Bottura during the final week of Master Chef UK in December 2013. There he was telling the contestants to follow their passion, to express their emotions in a plate and to be daring and creative. It might sound like a cliché but watching that episode jolted me into action. It was like he was also speaking to me.
I had to experience his cuisine and I needed to do it sooner rather than later. A month later, we were having dinner with some friends and speaking about this Masterchef episode. We decided there and then to go, and with a few dates in hand, we finally managed to secure a booking for 9th May.
That meal will remain memorable for many reasons. Unfortunately, Bottura was not at the restaurant and I am sure that the experience would have been even different with the chef around to explain the story behind his creations.
Bottura is often misunderstood despite the fact that he is probably the best storyteller there is in today’s gastronomic field. The dishes we were served were nevertheless memorable in many ways. Playful but full of flavour. The five ages of Parmiggiano Reggiano was pure genius and exceptional even for someone who had a phobia of cheese until a few years before.
The ragu accompanying the crunchy part of a lasagne could easily bring tears to your eyes, while the Caesar salad was so good and surprising that it cannot really be described in words.
This experience has given me so much inspiration that it has kept me writing for all these months. In many ways, it mirrors the journey of Food and Wine Gazette, a journey full of surprises and new experiences. It is incredible to think that these are still early days.