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The Italian Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura grew up watching his brothers race cars in an open track. Just beyond Modena’s ancient gates, as their cars flung mud up above their tires, he grew fascinated by speed and its expression. Mud resulting from power became an idea he rummaged over for years. Recently, that image, combined with paintings by Damien Hirst, influenced his vision for a Levante Trofeo car he designed with Maserati.
For the tailor-made model, Bottura worked with the Maserati Fuoriserie customization program to artistically express his memories and the power of contemporary art. The result is a four-wheel-drive, 580-horsepower slice of speed, with a blue exterior featuring vibrant splashes of color across its sides in place of mud. Whitewall spoke with Bottura to hear about how growing up in Motor Valley moved him, and how both he and Maserati honor heritage, preservation, and craftsmanship.
WHITEWALL: You mentioned that this car is an expression of who you are. How so?
MASSIMO BOTTURA: There are many references and metaphors. The first ones are “mud as speed” and “color as culture.” My first idea was a car painted in mud to show how hard this car can be driven. It’s not just a luxury car, polished and shiny, but also is a car that should be driven in the mud. Showing the dirt is about expressing the exhilaration of a car rally, or even the great rally of life.
The streaks around the wheels express speed. The splashes of color refer to the English artist Damien Hirst and his ability to bring out the wonder and joy of a child, and to share that with others through his art. In particular, his series of spin paintings capture the sense of making messes and getting dirty, but not with mud, with color and culture.
WW: Car details are a form of contemporary luxury. What do these creative elements represent of you?
MB: Creativity is defining how you see the world. I see the world like a kaleidoscope, mutating as I evolve and grow, always changing with me. The fluidity of the color, the sense of movement, and the speed of time intermix, creating who I am and how I look at the world. It is a way of showing how I solve problems, and how I cook. This car is about self-expression taken to another level. Like a tattoo for everyone to see.
All this color, at the end of the day, is about contamination of your passions and your personal identity. I like to get dirty up to my knees in culture and lose myself in the mix of music, art, food, cars, and poetry that comes from daring to think deep.
WW: What relationship do you see between cars and food?
MB: Modena is the place where the contradiction of slow food and fast cars comes to life every day. I embrace this duality as a part of who I am, my personal and culinary identity. Slow food is about the aging process of some of our most iconic artisanal products, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto, and balsamic vinegar. Fast cars are not only about the brands that have historically been made here in Modena, but about the drive to innovate that came out of this little area, where the obsession for speed, dynamism, and breaking records became part of the collective DNA.
As a chef, these two elements, slow and fast, come together in my kitchen. We respect ingredients and their culinary history but move them forward to see them from a contemporary viewpoint. Moving forward the Italian kitchen has not been easy because no one wants it to change, yet pushing the recipes into the future to give them more future is what I do best.
WW: What does Maserati symbolize for you?
MB: Color. The blue body of the car is an ode to the blue liveries of the Maserati MC12 Stradale. When designing this Fuoriserie, I wanted it to be this racing blue to remember Maserati’s glorious racing history, because for me, Maserati is about speed and elegance. It is the original GranTurismo where two worlds came together to give everyday drivers the thrill of the racetrack. Craftsmanship. There is so much craftsmanship that pumps through the veins of Maserati—from the precision of the factory to the car detailing. Everything has been considered and designed to express Italian craftsmanship, technical efficiency, and excellence.
And resilience. My nickname for this car is the Rally of Monte Charlie. As kids, we were all crazy about the Rallye de Monte-Carlo because it was such a mythic and dangerous race that took place at night, in the winter. There was often snow, so the twisting road from the top of the hill to the bay made it one of the toughest races ever. Our son, Carlo, also known as Charlie, has special needs. He is a young adult, and when I think about how tough it has been for him, I think about that race. He never gives up and pushes himself like me. In a way, this car is also infused with his soulful spirit and determination. Instead of calling it Monte-Carlo, I call it Rally of Monte Charlie—not afraid to be different and win everything all the same. And sound. Maserati cars have a sound like no other. If you can’t hear it, you’re not driving it.
WW: If you could take your Levante Trofeo off-roading anywhere, where would it be?
MB: Through the wheat fields of Casa Maria Luigia, our 12-room guest house in the Emilian countryside, going in circles fast enough to kick up the dust of late August and create a thunderous vortex. Acting just like the kid I am.