About two hours southeast of Milan is Modena—a city historically famous for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, and Enzo Ferrari. Most recently, however, the town has garnered attention from visitors all over the globe for Osteria Francescana. Helmed by Chef Massimo Bottura, the restaurant has three Michelin stars and was named the number one best restaurant in the world this year by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Recently, Bottura was in New York to present a new collaborative project with The Dalmore and to cook for a small group of guests at Sotheby’s. There, before we lost him in the kitchen, Whitewaller spoke with Bottura about his love for food and his mission of combating food waste.
WHITEWALLER: Congratulations on your award this year—a long time coming for a restaurant that’s been high up on that coveted list for several consecutive years.
MASSIMO BOTTURA: After all these years . . . Yesterday, we were reflecting with our team, and it has been more than eight years that we have been in the top five best restaurants. And in the three best restaurants for seven years in a row. It’s like if we were nominated for an Oscar every year—one after the other, after the other, after the other. What The 50 Best did was change the perspective of cuisine. So, it’s something very, very special for us. We became one of the best of the best.
WW: And here we are to celebrate your foray into spirits—a collaboration with The Dalmore. This one-of-a-kind bottle of whisky, named L’Anima, is being auctioned off in May by Sotheby’s with all proceeds benefitting your foundation Food for Soul. Tell us a bit about how this began.
MB: Richard [Paterson] reached out to me, and he shared this idea that they had. Mostly, we shared passion. I realized that this guy has the same approach that I have with food with his whisky. He immediately got my attention with thinking about donating this unique bottle—there is just one—to Food for Soul.
When we have this kind of discussion, it’s never just about the quality of the ingredients, but the quality of the ideas. The quality of the ideas is what really matches when we get together.
WW: Tell us a bit more about your foundation, Food for Soul, where the proceeds are going. How is it working toward its mission of combating food waste?
MB: The message behind Food for Soul is fighting food waste. We produce food for 12 billion people, but we are 7 billion on earth. 860 million people don’t have anything to eat, and we waste 33 percent through production. It is the first cause of climate change. We use water, we use energy, we use human capital, and then we burn it. We pollute the world.
So the message is everything—fighting food waste. And it’s very important because it’s a cultural project. Food for Soul is not charity. It’s much more than a soup kitchen; it’s using the inevitable food waste.
It’s like my dish Oops, I Dropped the Lemon Tart. It’s putting all the most amazing techniques into a mistake. That’s what really transfers emotions.
WW: You also have Tortellante—a workshop you started to teach disabled kids traditional tortellini-making skills. Can you tell us a bit about that?
MB: Everything is handmade and is passed down knowledge from one grandmother to another. It comes from centuries and centuries of tradition. The flavor is filtered by the passing of the time. In the beginning, November 2018, we involved, like, five kids. But in two years, we became thirty-five kids, five grandmothers, and two retired butchers. We transferred the all the knowledge to these kids—who are very good at managing their everyday lives, with repetition, but maybe aren’t good with managing improvisation. Now, it’s a tortellini workshop where we sell tortellini, and we share knowledge with the kids—like my son; he’s involved in it. We give them the idea and the opportunity to be integrated into society. And now, all the tortellini are sold out because big companies like Gucci and BMW want to be a part of it. Gucci was one of the first partners that bought those tortellini—280 kilos! So, the tortellini are very special.