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Massimo Bottura: ‘Kids are always open to trying things. But adults? No.’

Widely regarded as the best chef in the world, Massimo Bottura explains how new Netflix show Waffles + Mochi may be aimed at children but encourages us all to cook because it reminds us how food can connect to different people and places

Until March last year, I was travelling 200 days a year. One thing that I always say  when I give speech at a university or high school and I speak with students is: always remember to travel with your eyes and your ears open.

The point of travelling is to understand cultures. You go to a market in Bangkok or in India and there’s a meat section that looks like hell and on the other side, a vegetable section that is like a beautiful garden. You understand immediately the culture of the place where you are.

 The more you learn, the more you know – then, at the point of creativity, you forget everything and you create something new.

As soon as we weren’t able to travel, I started a cultural exercise with my team – 103 young chefs from all over the world who decided to spend the quarantine year in Italy. I had to take care of everyone, you know, like a big father.

In the meantime, I was moving records from one place to another. And I had the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in my hand and I asked everyone: what was the meaning of that cover for them? The answer was so good that I said: Ok, now it’s time to transform this answer into edible bites!

I decided to create a brand new tasting menu called ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. The menu is a way to involve the cultural diversity of my team, through food. This was the most successful menu ever and we won every single prize in Italy.

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Waffles + Mochi stars Michelle Obama and teaches kids - and grown-ups the importance of food not only to our diets but to our identity

It’s important kids learn how to travel and experience through food, as I did when I was a kid. I still remember. I have a plate on the tasting menu called Mont St-Michel, a concentration of the day I spent there with my brothers. They forced me to eat oyster, try lamb and even taste cider. I’m probably a chef because of that experience. So 45 years, later I created this oyster with cured lamb chopped as a tartare and granitina of cider.

Another concept I present during Waffles + Mochi is making mistakes. One of my most iconic dishes is ‘Oops, I Dropped The Lemon Tart’. I explain to Waffles that is based on a mistake made by my sous chef. He was ready to serve a very avant-garde lemon tart and he dropped it. The whole kitchen froze. But I said this is the most amazing aesthetic to express the south of Italy, which can be the most broken place, but also be the most poetic place in the world. It depends what kind of eyes you look at that with. 

From mistakes to tradition to travelling, this series teaches kids and adults so much. Kids are always open to imperfection, to trying things. But adults? No.

Massimo Bottura appears on Netflix show Waffles + Mochi, and is proprietor of Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Modena, Italy, considered the best in the world. Follow him on Instagram to treat your tastebuds