The Brits saw the first installment of CNN’s new series Culinary Journeys a few days ago. On the West Coast, we can watch the show online now, divided into three 7- or 8-minute segments.
First up is Massimo Bottura, the Michelin three-star chef behind Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, land of slow food and fast cars. The slow part would be Parmigiano Reggiano and aceto balsamico. The fast, Ferrari and Mazerati, which are both based in the medieval town in the heart of Emilia-Romagna.
In addition to those hard won Michelin stars (awarded in 2012), Osteria Francescana has held the number three spot at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards in London.
Emilia-Romagna and the city of Modena are in Bottura’s DNA. “My muscles are made by Parmigiano Reggiano. My veins are balsamic vinegar,” he says in the video.
“Since I was a kid, I was a troublemaker, and I was escaping from my older brother under the table in the kitchen. And from down there I was looking at the world from another point of view. It’s what we do in Osteria Francescana every day. We compress all our passion — the music, art, our pasts, our experience, our memories — in edible bites.”
While known for his creativity and cutting edge cuisine, Bottura explains that Italian cuisine is all based on amazing ingredients — but its simplicity is very hard to achieve.
“One of the most incredible and delicious things you can have is spaghetti al pomodoro (spaghetti with tomato sauce). But to make it is the most difficult thing ever. You have to know where the tomato comes from, what kind of spaghetti, how they dried it. There are so many variables.”
It’s fascinating to watch this chef think out loud, the way he seems to pull ideas out of his head, throw them up in the air and then contemplate them. He’s not showing fancy techniques, which you can find all over television, but his soul, what inspires and moves him. And it’s not foie gras and truffles.
In Bottura’s restaurant, “We take the leftover bread. We take the peels of potato. We take the peels of celery root, everything that the people, they think that that’s almost waste. It’s not. A potato doesn’t have to be a truffle to be appreciated. A potato is much better than a truffle,” he says, waving his arms emphatically. “It’s just a way of thinking!”
The chef continues, “Cooking, it’s about emotions. It’s about love. It’s about memory. I am a gastronomic traveler.”
That’s part one. In part two, Bottura visits London and meets up with nose-to-tail chef Fergus Henderson at Smithfield Market, where Londoners have been buying meat for 800 years. They buy some marrow bones and return to Henderson’s restaurant St. John to feast on roasted marrow spread on toasted bread with parsley salad.
In part three, Bottura comes back to Modena and Osteria Francescana to cook up a new dish inspired by his culinary journey.
Culinary Journeys is a new series of monthly half-hour shows on CNN International.