I just arrived back home after a whirlwind trip to Berlin to interview Massimo Bottura, chef patron of the Michelin three-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana, who was recently crowned the #1 chef in the world (as voted by a panel of nearly 1,000 gastronomic experts worldwide) presiding over the #1 restaurant in the world. When I was given this assignment, I viewed it as an honor but also a challenge since the food scene is not entirely on my radar YET I do know about passion, art, culture and the craving one can have from the very core to follow dreams and live their life immersed in what they love. So after seeing Massimo on Netflix (The Chef’s Table Episode 1), I felt entirely ready to meet this hugely talented and successful man and experience his passion first hand.
After I arrived at the IFA in Berlin, I watched a fantastic presentation by Massimo for Grundig about his goal to change the way the world looks at food through Food For Soul* (his non profit organization) and his collaboration with Grundig for their #RespectFood movement. #RespectFood focuses on how much waste food. That we need to use the leftovers, clean our plate, use what is in our refrigerator and don’t let it go to waste, don’t put more on our plate that we will eat, have a conscience when it comes to the meal before you, etc. With so many starving in the world and 1.3 billion tons of food being wasted, it’s a call to action to put more thought into cooking than just the recipes we make.
Grundig #RespectFood Manifesto
1. Eat Leftovers
2. Know Your Fridge
3. Check The Dates
4. Shop Smart
5. Love Food Hate Waste
6. Take Leftovers Home
7. Use It All
8. Clean Your Plate
9. Eat What You Need
During Massimo’s presentation, he jumped in with the chef he originally had there to prepare his recipe for him and instead, he asked us if he could cook while he spoke and of course, the audience didn’t object – it was a great privilege to watch him at work – directing the chef while speaking to us and making some jokes along the way. He is focused and intense but also all over the place and very spirited and energetic – you can’t predict what will come next, I love it – so it’s fun to watch him in his element with pots and pans and delicious aromas filling the air… His energy is contagious and it’s obvious that he loves being in the kitchen. We even got to sample his broth with breadcrumbs and parmesan which was light and lovely.
After his presentation, I was ushered into a private area for the press – I was with CNN Turkey, Wallpaper magazine and several members of the British press, and I had 15 minutes to meet Massimo in a small conference room and that is exactly what happened — and it was an exhilarating ride. After we wrapped up, I asked if he’d like to present in a video a few words from his heart for the decor8 audience – I told him it could be any message he’d like to send forth, and below, you will find my video of Massimo. But first, here are 8 messages from this famous chef that I had to share from our meeting together…
- ON LOVE: When I asked Massimo about his relationship with his American wife, Lara Gilmore, what she brought to their partnering, he immediately said, “Culture, Poetry and Balance. Mixing the Italian irrational way of acting with the pragmatic way of an American is the perfect mix.” I personally loved hearing this, he is so in love with his wife but also has so much respect for her, it’s very touching.
- ON RESPONSIBILITY: “Cooking is an act of love but today, cooking is a call to act. Chefs today are much more than their recipes, we can do so much more, we have a responsibility, much more than the sum of the recipes.” He is referring here to how much food we waste and how chefs and all of us need to think more about what we are using. He was raised in a culture where you eat the entire animal so to speak, so nothing is wasted, and this is important to him in a world where so many are starving.
- ON GETTING YOUR MESSAGE OUT: “You communicate, it is your job, you are writing, you communicate with hundreds of thousands of people. It’s you, the press, that is the most important thing, if you evolve, if you transfer these kinds of messages.We (chefs) have so much spotlight that we are moving from us to others so we can do like this repertoire and have the full attention of the people, that’s a very good thing.” Massimo feels very thankful for the press that he gets now from being the world’s #1 chef, not for his own ego, but because now he is able to get bigger, more important news out to the world like his nonprofit, Food For Soul.
- ON FUTURE CHEFS: He sees a lot of chefs who think success comes overnight or from winning a contest on television. He believes this is just not the case, “The young generation, they have to know that being a chef takes a very long time. You have to grow like a tree, very very slow with big roots, and then you can shine. But first of all, you have to know everything and then forget about everything, but first you have to know everything and to know everything you have to travel a lot, experience a lot, you have to do all this.”
- ON INSPIRATION: “When I watch a movie and go to the movie theater, most of the time, I go and watch the most stupid thing ever but what I need is two hours for me to isolate myself, I don’t even know what I watched.” He said that is when the ideas come, and we both agreed that isolation can often breed inspiration.
- ON MUSIC: “When I leave the restaurant, in my house there is a room, a music room, and this is where I decompress. The music is perfect, most of the time in there especially in the darkness I find a creative earthquake, a very important moment in which I really find myself mixing so many different aspects of my passion… Art, music, especially when I’m alone.” He mentioned Opera, Pavarotti, Billy Holiday, Led Zeppelin – all great music inspires him.
- ON DESIGN: “We grew up with a kind of feeling and passion for design, we waited 6 years for finding the right sofa. I was walking on the streets of New York, and I saw two shadows, two gray chairs and I put them on my shoulder and I walked from mid own to uptown with them on my shoulders and I walked back home… How can you throw away two chairs like that? Now they are in my living room.” Massimo is a big fan of recycling and using everything, from food to the objects he uses to decorate his home.
- ON PERSEVERANCE: I asked him about the time when he was not the most popular chef in Italy, when reviews were not so positive. I asked him how he pressed forward and stuck to his ideas and he simply said, “I was so sure about what I was doing, it was so clear to me that I was on the right way. For the young chefs if you have a good idea, keep doing it, go ahead, if the idea is really right… you will be recognized.”
Here is Massimo with a message for all of you…
* Food for Soul is a non-profit organization founded by chef Massimo Bottura to promote social awareness about food wastage and hunger through a wide range of initiatives in collaboration with chefs, artisans, food suppliers, artists, designers and institutions. You can get involved here.
(Photo + Video by Holly Becker for decor8)