FACT caught up with Chef Massimo Bottura to discuss his cuisine, his inspirations and the recent win for Torno Subito at the Fact Dining Awards Dubai 2021.
It’s been nine months since we last caught up. So what’s new in the world of Massimo?
So many things! The only thing that I didn’t have before the pandemic was time. So as soon as the pandemic started, I realised that we had to use this time in the most amazing way. So, as soon as we reopened Osteria Francescana, we introduced a new menu that was completely different.
The team’s fragility was essential and I needed to keep my team together because we are 60 chefs in Modena. For five months, from 7 January to 31 May, we rebuilt 110 recipes, which we eventually reduced down to ten dishes. I created a new menu as an opera. That was the first thing I did.
Then we opened Ristorante Cavallino, a partnership with Ferrari. We were between Modena and Maranello in a big restaurant in Ferrari World, open to those with a passion for speed. Since day one, we were fully booked.
We opened Gucci Osteria in Tokyo one month later, but I couldn’t travel unless I did two weeks of quarantine. There was no way I could lose 14 days of my life. Even the chef arrived three weeks later from Naples.
I have to say, we also got the Michelin Star immediately with Gucci Osteria in Los Angeles and we started winning prizes again, including the best restaurant in Italy for Osteria Francescana. We really believe in this.
With the global pandemic still raging, what are the differences between operating a restaurant in Modena, Italy and Dubai?
The difference is to manage the fragility of the team. That isn’t easy. We try to keep them together and treat them as a family, whether we’re in Modena or Dubai.
What’s changed at Torno Subito since we last saw you? Any new dishes we should look out for?
Bernardo recently did a beautiful event in Rimini where we have a big circus. Torno Subito is a realisation of that circus combined with inspiration from the Federico Fellini movie ‘8½‘.
Bernardo came with the Torno team, alongside Antonio from Gucci Osteria in Tokyo and Jessica from Casa Maria Luigia, to create a dish for the Circus of Flavours event in Rimini. We did our special pink sauce with spaghetti.
Our customers are not coming just for the pizza, they have started to order tasting menus and I am very excited. It took three years to explain the quality and of the kitchen but in a very informal way.
With travel opening up again. How often can diners expect to see you here in Dubai at Torno Subito?
I am already planning to come back in February because we have things to do and we are planning to have events with other chefs, including those from San Domenico and the others chefs from our group. So it will be an important and stimulating event.
Many of your staff have been here in Dubai since Torno Subito opened. How important is it to you to have people like chef Bernardo Paladini overseeing things when you’re not here?
It’s not important. It’s essential! It’s the only way I could say yes to the project. My reputation is my health and if I didn’t have someone like Bernardo, I would never have opened a place like this. It’s not just then aesthetic but the ethics of our job, the transformation of an idea into a restaurant on the beach. It matches the vision I had in mind coming to Dubai and creating Torno. Bernardo is the key to everything, creating food around a specific philosophy.
When I lost saw you, you were working on the Netflix series Mochi and Waffles. How did that come about and what was it like working with Michelle Obama?
Imagine kids are coming to Modena just to meet me. A couple of families have brought their kids to meet me in the kitchen because of the television show. These kids are four, five, six years old. The success for me was unexpected. It was so cool.
You have just been awarded our FACT Dining Award for ‘Best Italian – Causal Dining’ for the second year in a row. What do you think it is about Torno Subito that has resonated so much with Dubai diners?
These awards are key because they keep us motivated and remind us that our job is with the customers. This relationship keeps us on track and helps us keep evolving and improving. I keep saying to Bernardo and the team that the secret to success is the obsession with what you do. If you’re not 100 % dedicated to what you do, growing like a tree with deep roots, you’ll get washed away. I think right now that we are stronger than ever.
What can we expect from Massimo in 2022?
First of all, we’ll open a new soup kitchen in Geneva. We opened in Peru, Mexico, San Fransico, and New York during the pandemic.
We have a partnership with Rolex, and in the middle of February, you can expect a new Gucci Osteria in Seoul. Then I have other projects, but I’m going to wait until I meet you next to tell you about them…