The Chef’s table I’d love to sit at…

Modena is a picture postcard Italian city and on the south side of the Po Valley, in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. Close your eyes now and picture Italy – Modena is the pastel watercolour image that your imagination comes up with.

You might not know that it used to house the factories of the famous sports car makers Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati to name but a few, a couple of which still have their HQ nearby. You definitely won’t know that it is home to the second oldest athenaeum in Italy.

Modena – home to Massimo Bottura

You might know that Modena is known for its production of balsamic vinegar, 30 years no-one had heard of it, but now it’s a staple of every kitchen larder, and there’s barely a day when I don’t use it for something. You should know that Modena is the home of chef, music lover, restaurateur, husband, father, pioneer, rule breaker and all around loveable legend Massimo Bottura, and his three-Michelin-star restaurant Osteria Francescana.

This is a restaurant that has won awards, accolades and friends and was most recently placed on the pedestal that is No. 1 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016 in the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards.

Inspiration from Netflix

Now I love a bit of Netflix as much as the next man, but what I don’t love is the weekly struggle of finding a new thing to watch, a new box set to get into or something different to entertain me over a casual Tuesday evening. Well consider this week’s struggle over and if you haven’t had the pleasure already watch Chef’s Table – let me assure you, you won’t regret it. The series starts with Massimo.

Before watching it I had read about, dreamed of, read about some more and tried to book a table at restaurant Osteria Francescana to sample plates of the world’s greatest food, now I want to book a table so that I can meet Massimo himself.

The programme is beautifully self-narrated by Massimo with his poetic Italian voice paired with the sweet gentle lisp of his wife, Lara, the lens through which his view of food, art and the world is brought into focus. Whether he’s discussing the social justice of selling parmesan, the excitement of being invited to work in a kitchen with Alain Ducasse or the sliding doors moment of one restaurant critic understanding his plates of food, he has one of those voices that you could listen to all night.

A Three Michelin Star formula

Food writer, and ‘statement glasses’ wearing expert, Faith Willinger sets the tone by explaining that “Massimo brings something else to the plate besides food, that’s the goal of one of the world’s greatest restaurants. He’s arrived at his own formula for what being a Three Michelin Star is about. For Massimo it’s about the art, it’s about the music, it’s about the place, it’s about the ingredients. It’s not just about the food, it’s about the whole concept behind the food that makes it into something far more interesting.”

In every frame where Massimo is talking, his passion and creativity for food, for life, permeate the screen and with every bar of classical music you’re given a depth of understanding that you wouldn’t expect. You’re taken on a journey which started with his first restaurant, Trattoria Campazzo before darting off on a tangent to New York, to find Lara, before returning home, via Monte Carlo, to launch what would become one of the finest restaurants in the world.

It’s more serious than a Massimo crush

I’m not sure what put more of a smile on my face, the love that he has when talking about food, the laughter that came from his brigade playing football in a Italian street behind the restaurant, the drama of his sous chef creating ‘Oops I dropped the lemon tart’ by, you guessed it, dropping a lemon tart or the sense of family that you feel from Lara, his two kids and the team at his restaurant, or maybe it was the combination of all of these. You could be forgiven for thinking I’ve got a bit of a crush on Massimo, but let me assure you. It’s much more serious than that.

Let me finish by quoting famous Modenesi, operatic tenor, Luciano Pavarotti who quite rightly said “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating” I only hope that one of those times is when I stop to eat at Osteria Francescana.

Picture postcard Italian dining

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