Back in 2017, when I trained at the Osteria Francescana in 2017, my experience was extraordinary. It is undeniably world-class, exceptionally organised, and everything takes place in an efficient manner. Also, never in my life had I come across a kitchen like chef Massimo’s. I was fortunate also to look at his non-profit project Food for Soul, which nourishes the hungry and fights food wastage.
But what made it stand out was the extremely warm and friendly team. It was like one big family under one roof. You absolutely would not feel the stress of working in a Michelin 3-star kitchen, because there was such an encouraging work environment around you. It’s because Chef Bottura strongly believes that the objective of a restaurant’s existence is not to just provide meals but also give equal importance to the ingredients and the hands that cook the food, that is, his team. It isn’t a wonder then that Chef Massimo Bottura has managed to put Osteria Francescana among the world’s best.I have met Chef Massimo on several occasions after my training, once on his ‘pop-up’ visit to India where I got to be a part of his team yet again, then in Macau, and the latest instance was in Singapore, in 2019, where I was taken aback (read in a happy, humble way), when he gave my example on stage when it came to being a focused and passionate chef. Later, off stage, he even told me that he was proud of me and promised to visit Shor at Aerocity, where I worked as Chef Manager, on his next India visit.
Spreading positivity in the pandemic
The Italian chef’s home country was badly affected by the pandemic, just like India. I was disheartened and demotivated because I couldn’t go to work anymore and my plans of going to the UPF University, Barcelona, for my Master’s in Marketing and Finance got shelved. You may wonder why a chef would need to study Marketing and Finance—well, to run a successful restaurant, you need to excel at both of these, something which I learnt from Bottura, my mentor.
Anyway the harsh reality was that I couldn’t go on and pursue what I wanted to. One day, my mother asked me to help her with making a video, where all the top chefs of the world would say, “I love you mom, Happy Mother’s Day” in their language”. Needless to add, it was my job to get Chef Massimo’s bit and he sent me a lovely video that started with Chef Massimo saying, “Hi everyone, welcome to Kitchen Quarantine—oh, I am sorry, Happy Mother’s Day to everyone, to all the mothers. In these two incredible months I am experiencing what all the mothers experience during their whole life so I have all my admiration for them, because it’s such a difficult hard job, so a big hug from Massimo for all the mothers from Modena”.
Well his message taught me that if a big chef like Massimo could make cooking with his family a fun ‘Kitchen Quarantine’ show because that’s what he was enjoying at the moment, I should also look at something that would keep me busy and at the same time happy. That’s when I began my journey of home-baking, learning recipes, watching food shows, reading books, trying my hand at my favourite Asian cuisine, teaching and learning Spanish, Instagramming and writing.
Thank you Chef Massimo for the most important lesson of my life—that of ensuring what I do brings me happiness, because then there is no stopping me from excelling at it. It is simple, I wake up and do what I love, and sleep contented, already dreaming of a specialised course in Patisserie from Le Cordon Bleu and opening my own little quaint café where I would cook what I love, which could vary from the most delicious cupcake to a decadent bowl of ramen, or who knows, even an inspired version of oops-I-dropped-my-lemon-tart from Chef Massimo’s kitchen. A happy me would spread joy via my food, won’t I?