Q&A With The Chef-Owner Of The World's Best Restaurant

Osteria Francescana's Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore talk breakfast, upcoming plans, and more

By Leiti Hsu

3 August 2018

A version of this article appears at Forbes.

There aren't many culinary couples more beloved for both their food and their work beyond the restaurant than Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore, the power pair behind Osteria Francescana. Two weeks ago, they leapt back to #1 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

I was glad because there are few in gastronomy I’d rather hear from more. Despite receiving much flak for the lack of geographical diversity and the stark gender imbalance, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants event is still an important megaphone for chefs' projects and causes. Massimo and Lara are ones who use the platform fully.

Back in 2016, Massimo launched his first refettorio to turn food surplus from the Rio Olympic Games into nourishing meals for Brazil's hungry. Since then, he's taken his reinvented soup kitchen on the road to London and Paris.

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“Chefs in 2018 are more than just the sum of their recipes. Everybody in this room is part of the same revolution, and together we can be a part of the same change in the world. So, let’s keep rockin’ and rolling—and now, party," Massimo urged the crowd last Tuesday.

Massimo and Lara are typically to be found on separate sides of the room, dividing and conquering, holding court with friends and admirers. In between countless “congratulations” and hearty hugs, I snagged some time with the duo, who stepped onstage together to accept their award. Here’s what they had to say about how it all felt leading up to the big moment—and what to expect later this year.

Leiti Hsu: What did you have for breakfast?

Lara Gilmore: “I had a coffee in the room—and then I had another coffee in the room. And then I was working on the press release in bed. And then I was walking around in my high-heeled shoes, seeing if I could actually walk around in them. And that was me until 12:30 p.m. So breakfast, nothing.”

Massimo Bottura: “We took a very easy morning with Lara. For breakfast, I took a double espresso with some foamy milk and a lot of sugar.”

Leiti: Were you nervous?

Lara: "I started to get nervous at #10. At #10 I was like, okay, we’re still in the game—this is really happening. I was pretending like it’s so casual, I’ve done this a million times, but at #10, my palms were sweating. At #10 I wanted to hold my husband’s hand, and he was like, ‘No, no, no, don’t touch me. I’m in my own world!’”

Massimo: “The whole day, no, because I felt very comfortable. And then when we arrived at #10, yes, because the old memories of the other year, when we were #2, we were joking with Joan [Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, a frequent top-10 contender], like ‘Oh no, not again.’ Everybody knows we are good friends!”

Leiti: How do you self-care?

Lara: “I get up earlier than everybody else, so that I get my 10 to15 minutes with a coffee sitting on a sofa, just looking out the window, reading the newspaper. Whatever it is, I have my 15 minutes where I’m not doing anything for anybody. Taking care of yourself is having some downtime when you can afford to be a little lazy, a little indulgent. Sometimes I take off my nail polish, space out, pet my dog. I love to do all kinds of sports. I’m not an athlete, but I bike, I do yoga, and I run when I walk my dog. And try to eat healthy and lots and lots of vegetables.”

Massimo: "I have to say a few words from Bob Dylan: 'I wake up in the morning and go to bed in the night, and in the meantime, I do what I like to do.' It’s the secret of success.”

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Leiti: What’s coming up for you two this year?

Lara: “On July 24, the Basque Culinary Center is coming to Modena. We’re hosting a beautiful symposium and the announcement of their world prize. We have speakers like [artist and photographer] JR, [Chef’s Table director] David Gelb, [designer] Ilse Crawford, and [food writer] Ruth Reichl.

We’re working on renovating a house in the countryside that will become a 12-room bed and breakfast, set to open in early December or early January. It’s just a way of extending our hospitality and more future for our future—and more work for me. [laughs] And have the chance to be immersed in the Emilia-Romagna countryside and the food, culture, landscape, and art.

We may or may not be opening up another Gucci Osteria somewhere else in the world after Florence in 2019. I can’t say where yet.

And then there’s a secret project happening in Dubai.

Side project, more personal: for autistic teenagers, we’re opening a tortellini shop at the end of October teaching young men to make homemade pasta. They’ll have their own lab and pasta shop in the center of Modena.”

Leiti: What was your favorite bite of the trip?

Lara: “How much jamón ibérico can we eat? I mean, seriously, every single bite gets better, and I’m tasting the hazelnut and I’m tasting the forest. Yes, there is delicious, amazing food that’s being cooked by wonderful chefs, but at the end of the day, it’s those ingredients that take you back to a place, a region, and a landscape.”

Massimo: “The oysters at Extebarri. But also, Josean [Alija, chef of Nerua], his tomatoes in a caper broth, wow.”

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