Friday, October 12, 2018

Winning Support through Culinary Creativity: Massimo Bottura

Lately, I have enjoyed watching a show called "Chef's Table", which is a series that spotlights chefs from around the world who are doing radical things with -- and through -- their food.  The stories are fascinating, and they describe the journey each chef took from humble beginnings to the lofty peaks of the culinary world.  But, interestingly, most of the chefs spotlighted are not just cooking and serving great food.  Instead, they are each challenging themselves and others in ways that go beyond the kitchen.  And, curiously, many of them are changing the world.

As I have watched these chefs and heard their stories, I was struck by the thought that many of them are providing Winning Support in ways that are not all that obvious.  Now, it might seem that the world of fine dining is far removed from your job, but Winning Support is instantly recognizable, no matter your chosen field.

I'd like to look at several of these chefs who are great examples of providing Winning Support through culinary creativity.  Each of the chefs has changed -- or is in the process of changing -- the world in their own way, using their own gifts and talents.  And, by studying what those chefs are doing, we can perhaps learn lessons that can be applied in our own fields.

In this post, I will highlight how Massimo Bottura provided Winning Support in a time of crisis.

Massimo Bottura is a chef in Modena, Italy, whose restaurant Osteria Francescana has been ranked as the one of the best restaurants in the world, taking the top spot several times in the past few years.  He is a chef who is provocative with his cooking, and is in the process of completely redefining the concept of Italian cuisine.  He is upending centuries of traditions in Italian cooking, daring even to challenge the very recipes that have been passed down from grandmas through the generations.  He has taken it upon himself to open the world to a new sort of Italian kitchen, and, if the awards that Osteria Francescana has received over the past few years are any indication, he is succeeding.

But, it was not easy to reach that point.  In Italy, if you ask anyone who has the best food, the answer is usually, "Grandma".  Those treasured recipes that had been handed down over the years have resulted in a culture that is very resistant to change, especially when it comes to Grandma's cooking.  Since Massimo dared to twiddle the recipes, he had opened himself up to ridicule from diners, critics, and restaurant reviewers.  For years, his restaurant struggled; the tables were empty and repeat clientele almost nonexistent.  He was discouraged and finally decided to give it up, but his wife told him, "Don't surrender a battle that will just continue within you."  She encouraged him to give it just a little more time, and, eventually, one of the most influential food critics in Italy came in to eat because he was famished from being tied up in a traffic jam.  That critic's review opened the eyes of the Italian culinary establishment, and Massimo's reputation started rising.

You've all heard the cliché of "thinking outside the box".  Massimo takes that concept even further.  Through perseverance and a strong belief in his mission -- and having a partner who helped push him to be true to his inner calling -- Massimo was able to break through and do something so different, that he has pretty much blown up the box as far as Italian cooking is concerned.  We can learn a lot just by observing his perseverance and dedication to his craft, and those traits are a good foundation on which to build our own brand of Winning Support.  But, something happened in 2012 that shows the true example of someone who provided Winning Support in a most unusual way.

In May, 2012, two earthquakes struck the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy -- which includes Massimo's hometown of Modena -- causing widespread damage and taking the lives of 27 people.  Amongst the damages were over 300,000 wheels of Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, with an estimated value of (E)200 million.  When the racks containing the heavy wheels fell, the cheese was cracked on the inside, which would have stopped the aging process, causing the cheese to go bad.  The dairy farmers and cheese makers were on the brink of ruin unless something happened, and fast.

Wanting to do something to help save the local cheese industry, Massimo created a twist on a traditional Italian pasta dish that would spread awareness of the problem and create a worldwide demand for the wheels of cheese that needed to be sold and used immediately.  He took a standard Italian dish of pasta with pecorino cheese and pepper and changed the ingredients to include risotto and parmigiano cheese.  The risotto was made from rice from the rice producers in the region, who had also been affected by the earthquakes.

The recipe was developed and shared through social media, with the goal of having as many restaurants, chefs, and even home cooks around the world serve the dish on the same night -- October 27, 2012 -- as a fundraiser for the region.  The fundraiser created not only a sense of urgency, but the recipe created a worldwide demand for parmigiano cheese.  As a result, the entire supply of cheese wheels were sold, and not a single cheese maker ceased operations.

When the earthquake struck, Massimo was in the perfect spot to be able to help.  He physically located in the same region, and was very familiar with the product itself.  More importantly, perhaps, is that he was mentally in the perfect spot: he had already spent years taking Grandma's recipes and changing them.  He had persevered through the years of ridicule to reach a point where his new Italian cuisine was not only accepted locally, but was being sought-after around the world!

By creating a really good recipe that created the demand for the cheese and then getting the power of social media behind it, Massimo helped his town, his region, and his country with his Winning Support.

So, what are you doing in your field to prepare yourself for being in the right place to provide Winning Support when called upon?  Are you breaking through the barriers placed in your way by the Establishment?  Are you being true to your inner calling?  We might not all be called upon to change a time-honored recipe in a time of crisis, but, each one of us has a gift, a knack, a skill that can be used to provide Winning Support at just the right time.  Hone that skill; sharpen your tools; keep yourself mentally keen so that when a crisis befalls your clients, you will be able to provide Winning Support when the time comes.

And just to let you know, I am practicing what I preach.

Recently, I was laid off from my job, and have some time on my hands.  I am no longer in a position to actively provide support to paying clients, so I am using this opportunity to work on my skills and practice my craft by watching programming tutorials and learning new ways to develop and deliver software solutions.  I want to hone my skills, sharpen my tools, and keep mentally keen so that I'll be ready to provide Winning Support when the time comes.

We can do this together.  Let's start Winning Support.

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