When Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura stands before you, it’s almost possible to see the flame burning inside him.
The 52-year-old Italian is present, analytical, energetic and gracious.
Passionate about contemporary art, and a collector himself, Bottura’s restaurant Osteria Francescana (ranked second in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants) is filled with more art than some of the Mayfair galleries in London. Gavin Turk, Ólafur Elíasson, Maurizo Cattelan, Francesco Vezzoli and Vik Muniz are just some of the artists represented within his restaurant stationed 90 miles north of Florence in the ancient town of Modena.
Bottura’s food is often likened to art, but he will insist he is not an artist, rather an artisan.
We recently spent time with the chef in Sotheby’s — one of London’s most prestigious auction houses — where he was hosting a pop-up dining experience, quite literally pairing food with art.
Against the backdrop of a painting by one of Bottura’s favourite artists — Fontana — among other highly sought after works, il maestro was inspired to impart lessons in life, creativity and cuisine.
1. Ask yourself questions
The most important thing is, ask yourself questions. If you have doubt and you ask yourself questions, you’re going to evolve.
2. Be present
Don’t lose yourself in everyday life. That’s a very important point. You have to listen to your body, to your mind, to the people that are surrounding you.
3. Do what you love
I know myself. The moment I don’t feel the creativity coming out and I don’t get up and feel that kind of flame, I’m going to quit. It’s very important to cultivate that flame everyday, you can feel it inside when you wake up and you look at yourself in the mirror, you look at yourself and say, I really know you.
4. Art is not surface deep
Art is not what you see. Art is the message the artist is telling you.
5. Galleries are important
Galleries are very important. Because they are creating the new artists. They are giving spaces for the artists to expose.
6. Don’t confuse an artist with an artisan
Cooking is not art for one simple reason. A chef has to cook good food as the man who builds Ferarri or Maserati have to build fast cars. We are artisans. Artists are free to do whatever they want.
7. Surround yourself with people who support you
I’m grateful to my mum and my grandmother. They supported me when I took the decision to be a chef and not a lawyer. My father was extremely upset. I walked out from the company and I said I would never come back again and I didn’t. I’m grateful to my mum and my grandmother for supporting me in those moments. That was a very strange period.
8. Success doesn’t come without hard work
Now it’s very easy to look at me at Osteria Francescana as a successful example of a restaurant. But, you know, it’s been so hard. It’s been 20 years since I opened Osteria Francescana and 30 years since I started.
9. Give back
That’s why I’m thinking about what I can do for the new generation. Maybe build a cultural university, who knows. I think if you can dream it, you can make it. ( Fiona Sinclair Scott )