Massimo Bottura and René Redzepi on the art of cooking
Food & Drink
René Redzepi is the head chef and founder of Noma. His celebrated Copenhagen restaurant was one of the initiators of recipes based on nature, season, and place. His has an intellectual approach to cooking; it is about authenticity with all ingredients sourced, grown, and foraged locally. Redzepi is interested in making, meaning, craft, and history. Many restaurants since have explored similar roots, yet in 2003 Noma was considered radical. Chefs, he says, are explorers of a new planet. Redzepi feels the cook should be the creator of a new language. ‘Then we need an alphabet, and the more letters we have the more beautiful the prose… Yes, you are also restricted. And that makes you tight in your creativity.’
Spinach Branding work extensively with leading restaurants and chefs, many of whom are also at the cutting-edge of gastronomy. No two chefs offer the same experience, and that in itself is exciting as well as a challenge. And there are some similarities to be drawn from the two worlds. The role of a designer and brand creator is to think, react, and create within a given brief. It is a complex discipline and requires very specific skills that include understanding human behaviour; tapping into emotions. In this sense, it isn’t too dissimilar to cooking.
We recently met with another gastronomic maverick Massimo Bottura – world-famous chef and founder of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. Bottura is exploring a very different narrative to Redzepi – perhaps a more explosive, expressionist and at time surreal one. A spirited speaker, he has prepared three imaginative tasters to highlight his philosophy on food. ‘It is all about the emotions,’ he begins passionately, waving his arms. ‘You don’t come to Osteria to have a big plate of lasagne; you come there to experience something bigger.’ There is a little of Dali in Bottura.
Our first plate is a deconstructed ham sandwich named Memory of a Mortadella. ‘It is a light pure foam of mortadella with the crunchy bread on the side’. He picks up a small place to demonstrate. ‘So I break it and scoop the foam, like I did as a kid when, for the first fourteen years of my life, on my way to school my grandfather put a mortadella sandwich in my backpack. This is something that stays with me forever. This is what drives me.’
Next, we are served an artful dish featuring a bright yellow, orange, and green sculpture fearlessly projecting out of the tiny plate. On the side sits a small teaspoon of beautifully cooked minced meat. This is Bottura’s take on the humble lasagne. Once again playing on the power of memory, the recipe celebrates the crunchy part of the dish only. He explains: ‘Every single kid in Emilia-Romagna knows it is the best part of the lasagne – the rest is for adults! I smoked, burned, and transformed the lasagne into the crunchy part so you experience only this feeling.’
Our final taster is called the Risotto Levante, created to celebrate a new car by Maserati for which Bottura is a brand ambassador. It is inspired by Lake Garda and suggests the smells, textures, spirit of this fertile land. For this dish the chef has crafted a special food perfume, the aromas of which are infused into this dish and once again sprayed on just before we taste so the flavours arrive much like the word levante suggests – an easterly breeze that blows in from the Mediterranean.
Bottura’s cooking is as much about the food as it is the performance whereby eating becomes experiential, taking you on a journey to other times and other places. For him, food is a visceral medium. He says: ‘Creativity is something that you have inside – it comes from your passion.’
Images: Massimo Bottura head chef at Modena’s Osteria Francescana and his experimental dishes
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