Source: Business Today

Quick, how much are you willing to pay for a six-course meal? How about Rs 55,555 (plus taxes)? But then if the meal is cooked by world-renowned Italian chef Massimo Bottura, whose three-Michelin Star restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy has been rated the number one restaurant in the world twice and even Michele and Barack Obama had to request for a table, (there is an over six-month waiting period), it’s not about the money but the experience.

Bottura is in Delhi and hosting a special pop-up dinner at Le Cirque at The Leela Palace New Delhi on April 21 and 22 in collaboration with Culinary Culture. Only sixty guests on each night are getting to taste his food, which has some of his signature dishes such as ‘‘Oops I Dropped the Lemon Tart’, ‘The Crunchy Part of the Lasagne’ and ‘Psychedelic Cod Not Flame Grilled’ amongst others. ‘Oops I Dropped the Lemon Tart’, the result of a chef dropping the lemon tart, and which was then converted into a dessert, is a story of how a back-of-the-house disaster became a front-of-the-house legend.

“Cooking is an act of love,” said Bottura and for him it’s important that his guests experience emotion when they try his food. “If you leave my restaurant after experiencing an emotion, it will stay with you forever. If it’s just good food, it doesn’t mean anything.”

His restaurant in Italy only serves 12 guests a day, so a meal for 60 means the team has had to prep more. But Bottura is excited about cooking in Delhi, his second stint in India (he came to Mumbai last year for a pop-up at St Regis). “The menu that I have brought here reflects a lot of what we are doing and where we are right now. It’s moving from some super classic dishes at the Osteria to plates that were voted Plate of the Year in the last 3-4 years.”

Bottura said that today he likes to think of his experience in the kitchen as two separate parts – before the pandemic and after the pandemic. “After the pandemic, we realised that we could cook even better. Our concepts are even deeper. Because we had time, time that we did not have earlier. Time to think.”

One of the first menus post-pandemic was all about the historical dishes of Italy from the 1950s to the 1990s. “One of those was a classic veal medallion wrapped up in smoked bacon with butter and a fennel salad with a veal sauce. And I did that with an eggplant. The whole plate was vegan. So a dish can be adapted for vegetarian guests.”

Osteria Francescana also has a vegetarian menu and Bottura said they receive a lot of accolades from vegetarians.

For the Delhi pop-up, most of the ingredients are imported with Bottura’s team bringing most things with them as replicating his dishes with local ingredients will not be possible.

However, Bottura does use local ingredients at his restaurants in Tokyo, Seoul, Dubai etc. The menu is created keeping local ingredients in mind. For instance, he said the tomato in Japan is sweet and he couldn’t use it in a regular pasta so he serves one piece of pasta in a tomato sauce as a dessert at his Tokyo restaurant – Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, a one Michelin Star restaurant. But essentials such as olive oil are Bottura’s in-house production. “I don’t trust anyone,” he said. “I create it the way I want it. Not too aggressive, not too mild.” Other ingredients such as balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano are also created in-house.

Bottura is at the top of his profession, he has seen it all, and fed some of the most famous people in the world, so what excites him today? “Everything,” he said. “Every day when I wake up I am excited,” he waves his hands as he says it. “Today I am so excited about the quality of the service of this hotel (The Leela Palace New Delhi). I have someone who can communicate to me that he cares about me. Wow! That’s the power of hospitality.”

Bottura says each one of us should wake up every morning and be prepared to experience everything. For him, no two days are alike as things are constantly evolving and that for him is exciting. “I always leave the door open for the unexpected,” he smiles.


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