The Chef and the Shoemaker

Fashion and cuisine are two different worlds, each with its particular mode of expression, yet both share the same goal: to bring Italian tradition into the 21st century by enhancing its qualities and highlighting its strengths, to project the best of the past into the future. Young shoe designer Marco Laganà chats to Italian cuisine Master Massimo Bottura. The chef of Modena’s celebrated Osteria Francescana, award winning restaurant at the World’s 50Best reveals his passion and shares the ideas about Marco designing a shoe collection especially for him.

How did you know you’d end up in the food industry, what is your first memory, how did it feel, and how did you make it happen?

The question is not ‘how’ but ‘where: under the kitchen table! My secret hiding place and refuge from my brothers where I remember getting under the feet of my gran, my mother and my aunt as they stretched pasta to make tortellini. It was very peaceful and soothing to listen to their voices as they prepared our meals. One date remains fixed in my mind, it was in the winter of 1986, when my brother told me about a restaurant up for sale just outside Modena town. It was a real lightbulb moment: I realised that I need to change direction; that studying law was not right for me and, while these were just observations, they tapped into something bigger, connected me to something ancient. The real moment of clarity happened under that kitchen table, although it was not then a conscious thought it shaped my life story.

What is your kitchen philosophy?

I always say that my kitchen needs to be seen from a distance of 10 Km. Balsamic vinegar flows through my veins, my muscles are made of Parmigiano Reggiano and my dreams are painted with Lambrusco bubbles. Osteria Francescana has its own mojo, a recognizable and identifiable style associated with some of the memorable dishes served in the past 20 years or, as we say today, “Sometimes German duck, sometimes partridge, but also boiled”.

What led to the creation of your signature dish, which ingredients do you like best, what role does aesthetics play? And how do you combine tradition with the search for the new?

Each dish on the menu is the result of an idea, something that I want to express through food. It might be a colour, a song, a local feature, a memory, an experience or a cultural overlap. Some of my ideas started to evolve 15 years ago. I always try to bring history’s best into the future. I don’t believe in getting nostalgically lost in the past but in talking about it critically. That is the secret. Dishes like ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’s five ageings in different consistency and temperatures’ or “the mixed boiled not boiled’ (now on the menu as ‘Mixed boiled’) are expressions of the traditional. But our kitchen is more than that; it’s a constant search that leads us to question ourselves and our personal story. We have now added the ethical dimension of food to the aesthetical one. The Refettorio Ambrosiano created for Milan Expo 2015 and then the founding of the Food for the Soul Association were huge motivators for the entire Osteria Francescana team.

Can you identify a fashion designer with a vision like yours?

The old Maison Margiela and its reclaiming of the past. Actually I love Gucci’s new style and the change in direction that reflects Alessandro’s personality.

About Marco Laganà

After graduating in Fashion Design at Milan Polytechnic, Marco Laganà moved to Paris to work as consultant and product designer for footwear brand Camille Tanoh. That same year he worked as content editor of the Pierre Hardy website. He returned to Italy in 2014 to found his own eponymous women’s and men’s footwear brand, giving the classic forms of the moccasin and the sneaker a unique and original twist. Tradition and Made in Italy are the guide lights of Laganà’s research and the label’s website beautifully captures his irony and wit.


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