UPDATE - June 14, 2016 - Editor's Note - Further proving American chef Nancy Silverton's point, last night Bottura's Osteria Francescana was named #1 on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list.
Three courses into a lunch this week at the renowned Osteria Francescana in Modena, Nancy Silverton put down her spoon after contemplatively savoring its hyper green contents, took a long sip of leggy red wine, slowly shook her head, scowled and said "Just who the hell does Massimo Bottura think he is..."
"You don't like this food, Nancy?" interrupted Danielle Bernabe, a fellow diner who clearly didn't know Siverton well. Nancy ignored the question and continued with her thought.
"That he can just go ahead and make food that is so much better than everybody else's. Clearly, he has left the brotherhood of chefs. He's not a team player. I hope aspiring chefs don't taste this food. They'll give up the profession. Who the fuck does Bottura think he is?" .
That particular comment - profanity included - was broadcast on news stations throughout Western Europe and initially drew outrage toward Silverton on both traditional news outlets and social media. In addition, many food critics who have adorned Osteria Francescana with every possible restaurant accolade, criticized Silverton for being not only jealous of Bottura's talents, but crass. "Nancy Silverton is simply an American PBC", said Sir Charles Dillingsworth, food critic for the London Herald who used the acronym which means Pretty, But Crass.
But, Silverton's fellow chef cadre quickly came to her defense and stunned the restaurant world when they agreed with her assessment of Massimo Bottura.
"I'm with Nancy. Fuck that guy," said Mario Batali, the famous American chef based in New York City and partners with Silverton in the Mozza kingdom based in Los Angeles, Stalingrad, Newport Beach and Singapore. "Just because Massimo's aunt invented tortellini and his grandma invented milk and his great, great grandfather domesticated the pig, does not mean that Massimo does not have to work like the rest of us."
In San Francisco. Dominque Crenn, the impassioned chef of Atelier Crenn who shares some of Bottura's wild -if not downright hallucinogenic - imagination, weighed in..
"Look, I don't even know Massimo, but I think he is a genius," said Crenn, whose two Michelin star restaurant in San Francisco is considered one of America's best. "I know Lara [Gilmore, Bottura's American wife] and I am inspired by their story. But, as for him, well, umm, well, I better not say anymore. I am French and I don't want to make Franco-Italian relations any worse than they already are."
Crenn walked away from the interview, stopped, turned around and said "But, I think Nancy is right. Nancy is always fuckin' right."
In Los Angeles, Roy Choi, L.A.'s "Takin it to the Streets" chef, said he considered Bottura a "brother", though he had not been to his restaurant.
"I love him a a human though I've never had his food in Modena. I can't get a reservation. Who the hell do you need to know to get a damn table at Osteria Francescana?".
Max Paul Runstedtler, professor of food history at the American University in Washington, D.C., said that Bottura was at the "classic crossroads" of his career.
"Massimo Bottura is at that well-known intersection where he is in front of the pack. and he can choose to wait and have everyone catch up .- the few that can, at least - or he can continue on his Monza-speed path and go on increasing his lead," said Runstedtier, who was an associate producer of the documentary "Chefs Gone Wild", "Right now, it looks like Bottura is not stopping. I had the "Sensatons" menu for lunch at OF the other day and it was well-named."
It is that very "increasing the lead" impression that is troubling for many. And those accolades are becoming problematic, as well.
Most troubling of the honors bestowed on Bottura and Osteria Francescana has been the never-before-garnered rating of 19.75 in Le Guide de L'Espresso's I Ristoranti D'Italia. The reason for the backlash of that rating is that 19.75 is - clearly - a figure greater than 19.72, a number that is dear to millions of Italians. In a February, 24, 2012 interview, just a week before he died, colorful Italian sports reporter Germano Mosconi explained the importance of 19.72.
"19.72 is the beloved number of seconds that Barletta, Italy-born sprinter Pietra Mennea took to famously win the gold medal in the 200 meters at the 1980 Moscow Olympics," said Mosconi, the late Telenuovo sports reporter based in Verona. Mosconi was quiet for a few seconds, than released a torrent of expletives in ascending volume before straight out screaming "Pietra Mennea set a world record with that 19.72 and it held for over 16 years, goddamnit. For Bottura, or anyone, to mess with 19.72 is cazzo scopata!"
So will Massimo Bottura slow it down and have the other great chefs of the world catch up? If his Four-door Maserati Quattroporte is any indication, then the answer is resounding, unmuffled "No". The Maserati sedan is normally equipped with a V-6, 410 horsepower engine. Bottura's Maser? 490 horsepower. Massimo Bottura is not slowing down at all. Floor that baby.
(To see sports caster Germano Mosconi in action check this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRG2LlBfCn8