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Massimo Bottura - Nourishing the soul

In the process of trying to recreate a food memory, chef Massimo Bottura started a movement that was designed to fight food waste, but has grown into a social triumph.

In the opening to his latest book, Bread is Gold, Italian chef Massimo Bottura tells the story of how every morning he would fight with his brothers for the leftover bread from the previous night’s dinner to dip in warm milk with a splash of coffee and a liberal pouring of sugar. It is one of his fondest memories, reminding him of delicious food, but also time with his family and his dearly departed mother.

A few years ago, he thought about recreating the recipe, and trying to recapture that glorious memory. It was the catalyst that evolved into a concept that evolved into social change. But more on that later.

In essence, taking old food memories and recreating them is what has made Massimo famous and seen him reach the very top of the chef world. For the last few years his restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena on the northern outskirts of Milan, has been ranked in the top three in the world, last year, No.1, this year just behind New York’s Eleven Madison.

A culinary renaissance

At Francescana, Massimo has taken Italian classics, memories and culinary ideas and transported them into the modern world. Combing his love of art and music with his culinary talent to create dishes titled Memories of a Mortadella Sandwich, The Crunchy Part of Lasagne, and his signature Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s been a culinary renaissance. Of course, messing with traditional Italian cooking created quite a stir in Italy and for that measure, it is understandable that he gained recognition internationally before he was eventually praised at home.

And while Massimo has explored plenty of Italian history for his dishes, he insists he still has a wealth of heritage for future culinary inspirations, for the rest of his life, at the very least.

“Maybe for 10 lives,” he says when chatting with Lyndey Milan at a special event organised by Italian coffee company Lavazza in Sydney earlier this year. “We have centuries of tradition that we can reinterpret and rediscover.

“For instance, last autumn we created this dish detailed by a philosopher from Rome, Petronius, in a book of his. Over three pages he described an amazing dish with a beautiful big bird filled with another bird, filled with another bird, and then many small birds and then dates and figs – for me, that’s Italy.

“So this is what I say to Italian chefs when they look for the next trend. Let’s be honest. Let’s go deep into our history and try to bring the best from the past into the future, not in a nostalgic way, but in a critical way.”

A chance to make a change

These days, Massimo is lauded for his ideas and for returning Italian cuisine to the top of the culinary world. He has used his time in the spotlight to full advantage.

During Expo 2015 in Milan, Massimo was invited to cook for dignitaries. Instead, he used the opportunity to make a statement about food waste.

His initial idea was to do a short-term pop-up at the city’s central train station and invite the world’s best chefs to cook leftover food for the homeless. But then, apparently, the Pope got involved. His holiness heard the chef’s idea, but thought it could be something done long term. Through the Catholic charity Caritas, an abandoned theatre in the poorest suburb of Milan was made available for Massimo’s ‘community kitchen’.

He took the opportunity. Not wanting it to be a regular soup kitchen, he recruited well-known artists and designers to help transform the venue into a warm, inviting space, a restaurant for those who most likely have never even seen inside a Michelin-starred venue. It was named, Refettorio Ambrosiano, a Refettorio being a place where monks and nuns would eat their daily meals.

“In a world where one third of the food we produce is thrown away, we need to ask ourselves: Could food wastage and hunger be an expression of the same problem? We believe so,” Massimo asks in Bread is Gold, a diary and collection of recipes from the Refettorio Ambrosiano project.

Over the following months, more than 65 chefs turned surplus ingredients collected from the exhibition’s pavilions into nutritious meals served to the homeless and people in need in the area. Names like Ferran Adria, Rene Redzepi, Ana Ros and Alain Ducasse used their creative powers to turn discarded food into delicious dishes.

“It was challenging and rewarding to be a chef in that kitchen. It brought out the best in everyone,” says Massimo. “And it’s important to show that chefs in 2017 are not just the sum of their recipes, we are much more than that. People need to know we are social agents and we can give to the people, to the world an example.”

Nourishing the soul

Following this initial success, Massimo and his wife, Lara established Food for Soul, a non-profit organisation dedicated to nourishing the underprivileged.

The Social Tables project in Bologna followed, then Refettorio Gastromotiva in Rio, converting surplus food from the Olympic Games into healthy meals. Refettorio Felix opened in London in June and there’s plans for projects in Berlin and the United States.

“Food for Soul is not a charity project but a cultural one. Sharing a meal is not just a source of nourishment, but a gesture of inclusion,” says Massimo. “In looking for solutions to fight food waste, we found a wider impact. We became aware that a good meal in a beautiful and welcoming environment can change a community.

“Will the role of chefs define the future of food? I am an optimist and I believe that we are already making positive change. A recipe, after all, is a solution to a problem. Choose to be part of the solution by cooking and sharing a meal around a table. It might be the most revolutionary thing you do all day.”

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Food
The taste of the Adelaide Hills
Words by Mark Hughes on 18 Jul 2017
We traipsed around the Adelaide Hills to discover the most divine food offerings in this picturesque wine region. Just 20 minutes drive from the centre of Adelaide you find yourself in the Adelaide Hills. The ascent from the city is 700 metres, making this a cool climate wine region boasting a range of award-winning wines such as  Pinot Noir ,  Chardonnay  and  Sparkling , as well as elegant  Shiraz , while it is arguably the home of  Australian Sauvignon Blanc . Alongside impressive wines, the  Adelaide Hills  has an array of sumptuous dining offerings. Here are some of the highlights recommended to me by locals during a recent trip to the region. CRAFERS The first village you come to in the Hills along the M1 from Adelaide is Crafers, and it is where you'll find the recently renovated Crafers Hotel. Retaining the 1830s heritage of the original structure, it offers a pub feel with a contemporary dining experience with dishes like beouf bourguignon and duck confit sitting alongside gourmet burgers. There's a range of craft beers on tap, but it is the wine list, or more appropriately, the wine cellar, that is something to truly behold. With an extensive range of local wines and South Australian gems, there's also some hard-to-find wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. With boutique accommodation on site, you could be excused if you called in for lunch, but ended staying for the night. Crafers Hotel, 8 Main st, Crafers. Just up Mount Lofty Summit Road, is Mount Lofty House and the serious new addition to the Hills dining scene - Hardy's Verandah. A recent renovation has seen the long closed-in verandah opened up to become an exquisite dining space with breath-taking views across the Piccadilly Valley. The degustation menu from chef Wayne Brown is edgy and bold with a Japanese focus to local produce and a scintillating wine list curated by sommelier Patrick White. Hardy's Verandah 74 Mount Lofty Summit Rd, Crafers. SUMMERTOWN AND URAIDLA Follow Mount Lofty Summit Road and just a few enjoyable twists and turns up the hill you'll find yourself a culinary world away from Crafers at the Summertown Aristologist. This much-talked about venue is the collaboration of Aaron Fenwick, the former general manager at Restaurant Orana and winemakers Anton van Klopper (Lucy Margaux) and Jasper Button (Commone of Buttons). Housed in a former butcher shop, the vibe embodies a communal epicurean feel. Produce is sought from the kitchen garden or the community of farmers, while artisan bread is baked on premise. There is no set menu as the chef of the day chooses from what's available, but think grazing plates such as buckwheat, kombu and beets or artichoke, whey and ricotta matched with natural wines sourced primarily from the nearby Basket Range sub-region. Friday, Saturday and Sundays for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Summertown Aristologist, 1097 Greenhill road, Summertown . Keep the communal vibe going and follow Greenhill Road down into Uraidla, where winemaker of the moment, Taras Ochota from Ochota Barrels, has teamed up with a couple of mates to open Lost in a Forest - a wood oven/wine lounge in the beautifully remodelled St Stephens Anglican Church. Marco Pierre White called these 'the best pizzas he's ever eaten' courtesy of chef Nick Filsell's intriguing offerings such as cider braised pulled pork pizza with pickled vegetables, mozzarella and pork crackle, topped with housemade sriracha mayo. The bar features wines from nine Basket Range producers, as well as a range of exotic spirits. Lost in a Forest, 1203 Greenhill Rd, Uraidla. STIRLING If in Crafers you decided to get back on the M1 further into the Hills just a few minutes' drive you'll see the turn off for the impossibly beautiful town of Stirling. Its tree-lined main street features boutique shops and a number of cool eateries including The Locavore. As the name suggests, this intimate venue adheres to the 100 mile rule with all produce and wine sourced locally and used thoughtfully in Modern Australian tapas style offerings. The Locavore, 49 Mount Barker Rd, Stirling . Just down the road is the Stirling Hotel, a beautifully renovated pub with a fine dining bistro, grill and pizza bar. Not quite the level of a gastro pub, the food is wholesome and hearty with a substantial wine list. But the highlight is its Cellar & Patisserie. Located in separate premises behind the hotel, it serves a range of mouth-watering pastries, pies and breads and coffee from five different roasters. Stirling Hotel, 52 Mount Barker Rd, Stirling . BRIDGEWATER Just a few clicks up the M1 from Stirling (or along the more scenic route through Aldgate) you'll find an icon of the Adelaide Hills dining scene, the Bridgewater Mill. The former 1860s flour mill was turned into a fine dining restaurant in 1986 by wine industry legends Brian Croser and Len Evans. A few years ago, Seppeltsfield's Warren Randall bought the venue and gave it a major overhaul including a new wine bar and extending the outdoor deck. Local Hills chef Zac Ronayne delivers delicious seasonal offerings enjoyed by the fire in winter, or on the deck overlooking the huge working wheel in the summer. Bridgewater Mill, 386 Mount Barker Rd, Bridgewater . HAHNDORF The main strip of the historic village of Hahndorf is very touristy and you can find any number of German-inspired pubs where you can eat your weight in bratwurst, but there are two gems in Main Road as well. The Seasonal Garden Café celebrates local produce delivered as delicious wholesome meals such as salads, slow-roasted lamb as well as vegetarian options. Be sure to check out the delightful and relaxing kitchen garden out the back. Seasonal Garden Cafe, 79 Main Rd, Hahndorf Satisfy your sweet tooth at Chocolate @ Number 5. Famed for its waffles and exotic hot chocolates, there's also a range of decadent desserts, chocolate truffles and pralines and coffee sourced from a small batch roastery. Chocolate @ Number 5, 5 Main Rd, Hahndorf. Pay a visit to the iconic Beerenberg farm shop before taking the Balhannah Road north to the The Lane Vineyard and Restaurant, where you are greeted with sweeping views across the region. Chef James Brinklow has created delicious seasonal recipes and also offers the Lane Kitchen's Chef's Table experience - scores of dishes matched with wine across an indulgent three hour sitting. The Lane Vineyard and Restaurant, 5 Ravenswood Lane, Hahndorf . WOODSIDE Woodside Cheese features on many menus around the Hills. Being so close, take the Onkaparinga Valley Road and see artisan cheesemaker Kris Lloyd, winner of over 100 awards, including a Super Gold at the 2016 World Cheese Awards for her Anthill - a fresh goat cheese encrusted with green ants - she's been experimenting with a variation that includes lemon myrtle, as well as doing the country's first raw milk cheese. An innovator in the industry, she is a must-visit in the Adelaide Hills. Woodside Cheese Wrights, 22 Henry St, Woodside . A bit further along Onkaparinga Valley Road you'll find Bird in Hand winery. Everything about this place is impressive. Picturesque vineyards, incredible artwork and a top class restaurant, The Gallery. Carlos Astudillo has recently taken over as Chef de Cuisine and has introduced a farm-to-table rotation of dishes with produce sourced directly from local growers and Bird in Hand's kitchen garden. Open every day for lunch, take on one of the two lunchtime dining experiences, Signature Flight, a share-style menu or the more immersive Joy Flight - an exciting seasonal culinary journey that unfolds over three delectable hours, best enjoyed with matching Bird in Hand wines, of course. The Gallery, Corner of Bird in Hand & Pfeiffer Roads, Woodside . Another winery with a stellar restaurant is Howard Vineyard just 10 minutes drive back up the hill to Narnie.  MasterChef  alumni Heather Day has taken over the reins at the recently renovated Clover Restaurant and she's serving up some of the exotic, fresh flavours of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and China. The venue hosts acoustic Sunday Sessions and the lush green lawn outside the cellar door is the perfect spot to soak up some cool musical vibes and feast on Heather's delicious Asian dishes. Clover Restaurant, Howard Vineyard 53 Bald Hills Road, Nairne . VERDUN If you follow the signs from Woodside  back to Adelaide, you'll pass through Verdun, where there are three final additions to your Hills culinary journey. The Stanley Bridge Hotel is still an 'old school' pub, with a 1970s carpet and undulating floor. And that's its charm. With its cosy inside dining with dishes such as mushroom gnocchi and marinara linguine, it is finding favour with the hip crowds on the weekend who kick on out the back on the petanque rink and frequent the caravan-cum-bar. Stanley Bridge Tavern 41 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun . Only a couple of hundred metres up the road is the Walk the Talk Café. Housed in the old Verdun Post Office (locals still pop in to get their mail) chef/caterer Ali Seedsman and her partner Russell Marchant have opened a funky but unpretentious café. Ali's stellar pedigree (Bayswater Brasserie, Bathers Pavilion, Magill Estate) is evident on the menu - simple but sumptuous shared plates and housemade cakes and pastries. Walk the Talk Café, 25 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun . Still in Verdun, just before you get back on the M1 back to Adelaide, swing up the hill to Maximilian's, acknowledged as one of the best regional restaurants in the state. Casual shared plates, a la carte and chef's degustation journeys matched with wines from the on-site Sidewood Cellar Door. The venue also offers gorgeous views across the lake and vineyard. Maximilian's Restaurant 15 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun .
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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