Guest blog by Damien Neylon, the winner of the 2015 Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship.
The second stop on Damien's whirlwind trip across the world is Massimo Bottura's, Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy.
Arriving in Modena on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I set out through the cobblestoned streets to find the Duomo di Modena, a huge Romanesque cathedral with a central bell tower and ornate carvings. It was architecturally stunning - as are most of the buildings in the ancient town.
I had a late lunch of a grilled piadina filled with prosciutto di parma, rocket and balsamic vinegar (prosciutto, balsamic vinegar and parmesan all being specialties of the Emilia-Romagna region) and then went to check out the Enzo Ferrari museum - both Ferrari and Pavarotti were born in Modena.
The next day was the first day of work. The kitchen was divided into the traditional Italian flow of a menu: ‘antipasti’ (snacks and smaller courses); ‘primi’ (pasta and rice dishes); ‘secondi’ (the latter part of the savoury menu); and a fourth pastry section that made fresh pasta and bread for every service.
I was quickly put to work in the primi section, and learning how to cook a risotto properly will be one of the highlights of the whole trip!
The service was fast-paced and cheerful with everyone responding in unison with “marcha!” whenever a new order was called.
Over the week, I got to see and taste a lot of the dishes on the menu. At Osteria Francescana they employ a mixture of modern and traditional techniques, and it such a pleasure to get a small insight into some of the traditions and stories behind them.
On the Friday there was an amazing event in Milan that I was fortunate enough to attend at the picturesque Terrazza Martini, and at 15 stories high the panoramic view of the city was incredible. After the function we visited Massimo’s "soup kitchen" project where guest chefs were using the leftovers from the Milan expo to feed the homeless.
On the last day I had the morning off so I spent a few leisurely hours tasting a range of parmesan and balsamic of different ages. The difference in flavour that the aging process produces is truly something remarkable.
Osteria Francescana has 3 Michelin stars and is voted no. 2 in the world. I was extremely grateful to step into their world for a week, to hear the inspirations behind the dishes - whether influenced by art technique, tradition or stories. Pure genius!
Stay tuned as Damien will be checking in soon from his third and final stop - Relæ, Copenhagen.
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