The man behind the world’s best restaurant, Massimo Bottura, shares his thoughts on Australia’s struggle to define its own cuisine.
Earlier this week, Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana took out the top spot at the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, trumping last year’s winner, El Cellar de Can Roca in Spain.
His Modena restaurant, which also boasts three Michelin stars, is the embodiment of Bottura’s philosophy of merging tradition with evolution.
His dishes Memory of a Mortadella Sandwich and The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna are prime examples.
Earlier this year, Bottura was in Sydney as a guest speaker at the MAD Symposium, where he and fellow leading chefs including Rene Redzepi, David Chang and Peter Gilmore talked about ‘Tomorrow’s Meal’ and how the foodservice industry will evolve in the coming years.
In an interview with Hospitality magazine, Bottura spoke about the concept of tradition, comparing Australia’s relatively short history with that of Europe.
“It’s different because we have so many centuries of history that we don’t have to build – we have to break. We don’t have to build a cuisine and tradition, but we have to break tradition to make sure that traditions evolve in the right way.
“If you look at the past in a critical way, you can see the wrong parts of traditions, change it, get the best parts and bring it to the future. If you see the past and you look at tradition in a nostalgic way, you don’t evolve,” he said.
The future for foodservice in Australia is exciting, Bottura insisted. Chefs have the freedom to influence and shape the meals and flavours that will, over time, become classics.
“You have so many things to build and so many things to put together. I was reflecting on the last panel discussion at MAD, when we were talking about what Australian cuisine is. I think it’s not what Rene [Redzepi] did here. That’s not Australian cuisine. Those are Australian ingredients reinterpreted by a Danish mind.
“I think what Australia has to do is find traditions. What are traditions? Traditions are innovations well done. So when people realise that an innovation was extremely well done, it became tradition. Pizza. Pasta. Tortellini. Lasagne,” he said.
Bottura listed The Fink Group and Kylie Kwong’s Billy Kwong as great examples of businesses that are laying the foundations for a more definable Australian cuisine.
“Or you can go to Attica and see Ben Shewry cooking Australian cuisine as a New Zealand chef. Or Peter Gilmore reinterpreting Australian ideas with beautiful produce. It’s about Firedoor, for example – they don’t even have electricity, they have fire and with that fire you can taste 180 day aged grass fed beef from Australia.
“So I think the Australian chef has to get close with the farmer, the fisherman, the cheesemakers. Start with primitivism – so cooking with fire – and after that, you start adding technique and creating new dishes, or reinterpreting – through a contemporary mind – plates that are part of growing up. Like that, you create a new Australian cuisine.”
Tortellini in Parmigiano Reggiano cream. (Paolo Terzi)
To read our full profile with Massimo Bottura, click here