When French president Francois Hollande went to Modena earlier this week he provocatively said that he had heard there was a restaurant there that could compete with the top restaurants in France and he wanted to see whether this was true.
And according to Italian chef Massimo Bottura of the award winning Osteria Francescana he passed the test with flying colours. Speaking to Michela Scacchioli of La Repubblica he said Hollande had told him at the end of the evening that Italy had beaten France 2-0 this evening. “This is not cuisine, this is art.”
The French president went to dine at Bottura’s Osteria Francescana together with Italian premier Matteo Renzi.
Bottura made a name for himself, not just for his award-winning cuisine but also for a noble project to raise awareness on the issue of food waste by feeding Milan’s poor, using scraps of food from the Milan Expo. The Italian chef said it was not a common feature to have a head of state eat in his restaurant in Modena. “It was a spectacular event. I know Renzi personally, he has eaten at my house. He is a likeable man who puts you at ease. But having a head of state who comes here to Modena, is something special. I said let’s go and show him what we are capable of doing.”
Bottura said the French president showed interest in his cuisine and even entered the kitchen (the heart of the restaurant). “He asked lots of questions also to the staff about what was being served.”
For the evening, Bottura served a tasting menu to reflect the Italian territory starting from the south and ending in the north. “The five ages of Parmesan is an abstract reflection of the Emiglia Romagna region where time moves slowly but thought is quick. It is extremely important to give time to the produce, you just need to think of Aceto Balsamico di Modena,” he said.
Asked how they had managed to stay calm given the people who were sitting at table, Bottura said he and his staff did what they normally do before starting, which is to play football in the street in front of the restaurant. “The difference was that the roads were completely blocked. We invited the French security forces to come and play with us but they politely declined,” Bottura said.