For the second act in GQ’s The Performers video series, three-starred Michelin chef Massimo Bottura travels to Milan to show how jazz legend Thelonious Monk has influenced his cooking at his world-famous restaurant Osteria Francescana.
Massimo Bottura is obsessed with jazz. He has over 12,000 vinyl records stacked in shelves in his home in Modena. Including several of Thelonious Monk, who played in Milan in 1961 at the Teatro Lirico (a recorded set which became the album Thelonious Monk In Italy, released two years later).
The avant garde chef retraced Monk’s steps by traveling on his bicycle to Teatro Lirico, located next door to Milan’s famous La Scala theatre, recounting how the jazz great inspired his own style in the kitchen.
“This is my life since I was 14. I started collecting jazz. And once you’re into jazz you can’t leave,” says Bottura.
“Monk was very technically trained but he broke all the rules,” says Bottura. “He ripped up the rulebook.”
Massimo Bottura’s passion for Monk also features in a dish on Osteria Francescana’s menu. “Tribute To Thelonious Monk” is a cod fillet, its skin seared in dehydrated sea urchin and burned herbs, served on a bed of green onion, celery and daikon noodles in a squid ink broth. The black-and-white aesthetic of the plate is designed to pay homage to the piano keys the jazz legend famously mastered.
“You can’t improvise to become a great chef,” says Bottura, “but if you’re a great chef you can improvise.”