Chef on a mission

Italian chef Massimo Bottura is working towards fighting food waste and hunger

In the ever-changing culinary scene, it is not enough for chefs to serve food made only with fine ingredients.

Italian chef Massimo Bottura of three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, which was ranked second in this year's World's 50 Best Restaurants list, says: "The global dining scene has evolved in a very interesting direction. Luxury is no longer about caviar and lobsters, but ideas. The quality of the ideas is as important as the quality of the ingredients.

"Chefs are turning their attention to social issues and placing ethics next to aesthetics. After all, they do go hand in hand."

And in an effort to fight food waste and hunger, the 52-year-old also believes that more in the industry will get involved in charitable events and organisations.

Bottura walks the talk.

He is launching a cookbook called Bread Is Gold next year. It is a book of recipes from more than 50 chefs who cooked at his soup kitchen, Food For Soul, at this year's Expo Milano food exhibition.

The father of two teenagers says: "All the recipes were developed in the soup kitchen and prepared with waste products from the Expo. This cookbook is for families on a budget and helps teach people how not to waste food."

Bottura, known for his contemporary Italian gastronomy, was in town recently to cook at Shangri-La Hotel Singapore's Blu restaurant. This was part of the hotel group's Shangri-La International Festival of Gastronomy 2015, where eight culinary masters from around the world in five cities concurrently cooked in eight Shangri- La restaurants over five days. The other destinations were Bangkok, Hong Kong, Paris and Shanghai.

Some of the dishes he cooked for the seven-course menu included an "Emilian version of fish and chips" with Aula freshwater fish tempura served with carpione ice cream. Carpione is a traditional mix for marinating fish to preserve them and is made with vinegar, sugar, onions and white wine. Emilia-Romagna is a region in northern Italy, which includes the Po river, where the Aula fish is from.

He also made a hazelnut macaron with foie gras and white truffle.

His creations come from the drive to maintain standards in his acclaimed restaurant. "If you don't push against gravity, it will bring you down. We're never satisfied with what we did yesterday, but always projecting ourselves into the future. Tomorrow's recipe will be the most exciting one."

Bottura, whose love for cooking was influenced by his mother and grandmother, has worked with top chefs such as Alain Ducasse at his French restaurant Le Louis XV in Monaco's Monte Carlo and Ferran Adria at the famed elBulli in Spain.

For the past two years, Bottura was consulting for Zorlu Centre's Ristorante Italia in Turkey.

With the end of his two-year consulting contract for the restaurant, he is looking at the possibility of opening a restaurant in Cuba with Mexican chef Enrique Olvera of Pujol and Spanish chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz.

Their restaurants are ranked 16 and six respectively on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list.

Next month, the trio will be doing research and development in Cuba.

Continuing with his ethical direction, Bottura says about Cuba: "We would like to see this beautiful country thrive and grow in an ethical way by helping farmers and chefs work together to build a better food system, recover Cuban heritage foods and initiate organic agricultural practices."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 29, 2015, with the headline 'Chef on a mission'. Print Edition | Subscribe