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Inside Fool Magazine's Fellini-Inspired Portrait of Massimo Bottura

Fool Magazine editors Lotta and Per-Anders Jörgensen knew they needed to have a original approach if they were going to feature Osteria Francescana chef Massimo Bottura in the magazine's Italian issue. As they explained in an interview last week, Bottura — and his food — have already been relentlessly photographed through the years. And so, in late September, Bottura and his team from the three-Michelin-starred restaurant gathered for a photo shoot that was a little bit different. There was no need to plate beautiful dishes of food, but there was a need for an aerial lift. Instead of featuring perfectly set tables in the dining room, props included a whip and a vintage car. And rather than their chefs whites, the Osteria Francescana crew wore mostly designer coats and dresses.


An homage to Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini and his iconic film 8 1/2, this photo shoot became both the cover story and an 11-page spread in the latest issue of Fool. All at once, this is a shoot straight out of a fashion magazine, a tribute to a visionary filmmaker, a revealing profile by writer Lisa Abend, and an intimate look inside Bottura's world at Osteria Francescana. Over the course of the two-day shoot, Per-Anders Jörgensen says, the Fool team — which included Milan-based stylist Tanya Jones, hair and makeup artist Misha Jurcova and photography assistant Marco Moretto — watched Massimo Bottura transform into 8 1/2 star Marcello Mastroianni.

Here now, the husband-wife editorial duo at Fool has kindly shared the entire photo spread with Eater, with Per-Anders Jörgensen explaining the inspiration and back story of each shot. Please note that four of these photographs are presented as before-and-after shots with stills from the Fellini film that served as inspiration. Check it out, and do go buy the latest issue of Fool before it sells out:

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Massimo Bottura's 8 1/2: Madness in Modena is a wild, mysterious, elegant romp featuring Bottura and the people who surround him at Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. While this shoot was inspired by 8 1/2, Per-Anders Jörgensen says that the Fellini film was not intended to be a blueprint. This opening photograph of Bottura, for example, leads off the spread just because Jörgensen liked the shadow cast on the wall. The shot is also a little bit mysterious, which was the tone Jörgensen wanted to set.

But, in a way, the film was a lot more connected to Bottura than Jörgensen had even anticipated. After the shoot, as Jörgensen culled various quotes from the film to match with each photograph, he discovered that it was almost as though those famous lines were speaking about Bottura. This first quote — "Careful. Don't let him play on your emotions." — seemed an obvious reference to Bottura's emotional style of cooking and what diners are in for when they step into Osteria Francescana. "I was like, bloody hell, this is Massimo," said Jörgensen.


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As the before/after slider above makes pretty clear, this floating shoe shot is the closest reproduction of a Fellini still in the entire Fool spread. Jörgensen says that he and Lotta were inspired to recreate the classic opening scene of 8 1/2 because of Massimo Bottura's sneakers. When the Jörgensens first ate at Osteria Francescana years ago, they had a bit of fine dining fatigue. But when Bottura emerged from the kitchen wearing his signature New Balance sneakers — Jörgensen says the company has even made the chef his own custom pair — they knew this meal was going to be different.

And so it is that a shoe dangling high above Osteria Francescana is the focus of this shot, symbolizing Massimo Bottura floating away as his sous chefs try to restrain him. It's an obvious nod to the sous chef's role in a dreamer's kitchen. And it was the hardest shot to create, requiring both the rental of an aerial lift (which Bottura used his local connections to procure for the Fool editorial team),a permit from the mayor, and a specific type of rope that Jörgensen says he and Bottura's wife and business partner Lara Gilmore had to drive around all day to find. Worth noting: the leg attached to this shoe is a prosthetic and not Bottura himself hanging from an aerial lift.

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Massimo Bottura stood cracking a whip on this column for up to an hour, says Jörgensen, who notes, "If he trusts you, Massimo is up for anything." This photograph — and most of the rest in the spread, aside from the floating shoe and a forthcoming automobile shot — is set in Villa Monadori, which is just outside of Modena and owned by Bottura's family where he and Gilmore were married.


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One goal the Fool team had in mind going into this photo shoot was to portray not just Bottura, but his entire world at Osteria Francescana. So while Jörgensen generally hates taking group shots, it was important to him to get the restaurant's core team all together for this celebratory scene. At the bottom left is sous chef Kondo Takahiko, known as Taka. His fellow sous chef Yoji Tokuyoshi stands just above with his wife Sarah, while the third sous chef Davide diFabio holds a balloon next to Bottura. Twins Andrea and Luca Garelli stand guard at the door, while sommelier Giuseppe Palmieri is dressed as a priest and Bottura's wife Gilmore is wearing a cape and bunny ears just left of center.

It's a chaotic scene and Jörgensen has no idea what's actually going on here. "You can't control Massimo," he says. "He's used to running the show." Instead, the Fool team — which included Jörgensen, his wife Lotta, a stylist from Milan, a makeup artist, and a couple assistants — just set the stage and let the Osteria Francescana crew play.

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During the shoot, Jörgensen says Bottura kept reaching for his camera, resulting in this out-of-focus profile. But that lack of focus fits the narrative of the Madness in Modena spread, which is meant to portray a dream world. Though it's not quite clear in the photograph, this one also captures Bottura trying on some red lipstick with Gilmore's help.

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Sommelier Giuseppe Palmieri was a bit hesitant to play the role of the priest in this short story, according to Jörgensen. But Fellini's films often offered commentary on the Catholic Church, which is obviously quite influential in Italian culture. So Jörgensen wanted to pay homage to that with this scene depicting a priest taking "two naughty boys" (played by the Garelli twins) to task. But there's not really a deeper meaning to it; Jörgensen says he simply liked the stones running into the background as well as the quote, "—Is Italy an essentially Catholic country? —Be quiet and eat your ice cream."

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The sous chefs of Osteria Francescana — Yoji, his wife Sarah, Taka, and Davide — walk through a paradise garden on the way to a party where strange things were bound to happen. Jörgensen says that without these chefs, there would be no Osteria Francescana as we know it. He also points out that the quote accompanying this photograph is particularly apt. The Fellini quote is an instruction of sorts to the sous chefs who one day will leave Osteria Francescana to open restaurants and train their own proteges. It reads: "Yours is a great responsibility. You can either educate or corrupt millions of souls." After working with a teacher like Bottura, Jörgensen says, these chefs, too, have a great responsibility ahead of them.


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Another shot that somewhat matches up with a Fellini still, this portrait of Bottura was taken at the end of a long day of shooting. Bottura was incredibly tired at this point, Jörgensen says, but still game for anything. Jörgensen picked this shot because of the intensity of Bottura's expression and how it feels like you're seeing right through him. It's also something about the imperfection, Jörgensen says, that makes this portrait of Bottura one of the most interesting.

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Jörgensen shot the above photograph of Bottura and Gilmore dancing and embracing just before sundown with one lamp and a smoke machine. He began without the lamp, but the scene didn't quite have the cinematic qualities that Jörgensen was looking for to express the complexities of Bottura's personality. The chef known for his exuberance has, like anyone, a darker side to him as well.


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Another close Fellini reproduction, this next-to-last photograph in the series is a rarity in chef photography: "It's not every day you convince a three-star chef to get into a bathtub," says Jörgensen. He notes that it's both an indication of Bottura's willingness to play along with the photographers, as well as Jörgensen's own tendency to push his subjects, perhaps a little too much. Apparently after spending 30 minutes in the bath, Bottura finally told Jörgensen that he felt faint. The bathwater was too warm.

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Inspired by a different Fellini film, this photograph features Bottura and Gilmore driving home from that same dreamlike party the sous chefs were walking toward earlier in the tale. They're riding in a restored car that a local couple loaned Fool for the shoot, driving down the road that leads to the Panini dairy farm (and automobile museum) that produces some of the parmesan cheese Bottura uses at Osteria Francescana. Jörgensen explains that he wanted Gilmore to look over her shoulder, revealing her entire face, to underscore how important she is both to the operation of the restaurant as well as to her husband. As Jörgensen says, "She's so fundamental."

Osteria Francescana

Via Stella, 22 I-41121 Modena MO, Italy
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