Massimo Bottura, chef of the Michelin three-star restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, shares his world-renowned innovative take on Italian cuisine in “Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef.” Like most books from Bottura’s peers, including Magnus Nilsson, Daniel Patterson and Andoni Luis Aduriz, I hesitate to call them cookbooks, as few would attempt to recreate their modernist, labor-intensive works of art. It’s one of the reasons the setup of Bottura’s book succeeds, as each dish is told with a story and its inspiration, rather than a recipe (the recipes are at the back of the book, for reference). These stories draw us closer to the chef as we witness his mind and creativity at work.
For example, Bottura describes how his famous five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano evolved as a tribute to the cheese of the Emilia-Romagna region, showcasing the cheese’s five ages in five different textures. In one anecdote, he reminisces on a trip to Hong Kong, where, after tasting perfect dumplings in 104-degree weather and 90 percent humidity, he applied the same technique to bring his cotechino sausage dish to the everyday table. The book features 50 stories and accompanying recipes. Savor these stories right before you go to bed for a food-filled, contemplative mood that your dreams will feast on.