Making ECCELENTE happen in Italy
While New Balance Sales Rep Jason Weis was eating dinner on a trip to the Italian city of Modena last year, he wasn't expecting to meet a world-famous master chef. Yet just as suddenly as he had sat down at the intimate 11-table restaurant, Chef Massimo Bottura was greeting him with a broad smile.
Chef Bottura, as it turns out, is not only one of the most well-respected and decorated chefs on the planet, he wears almost nothing else on his feet but his beloved 991s. As soon as the chef got word there was an NB employee dining at his Osteria Francescana, he had to come out and meet him. After chatting awhile, Weis learned how big a New Balance fan Chef Bottura is, then shortly thereafter, got to taste exactly why he's so highly-regarded in his field. "It was a night I will not soon forget," said Weis.
Inspired by his encounter—and the bellisimo dining experience—Weis resolved to return with a token of appreciation for the man some have playfully dubbed "Chef New Balance." With this in mind, Weis asked New Balance Senior Designer Kai Marcucelli to create two pairs of custom 993s inspired by the chef and the decor of his three-Michelin-star restaurant.
"For the black pair, to me it was more about the color accents to make it more personal," he said. "There are two metal signs for the restaurant that are orange/yellow [which I used] for the primary accent color and the brown color on the doorway frame for the secondary."
The gray pair, on the other hand, was based more on the restaurant's facade. Marcucelli cited the entrance's "elegant use of color" and the building's impressive masonry work as inspiration. "[I also] used the same color accents as on the black 993 but in a slightly more subdued way," he added.
Last month, Weis returned to Modena and personally delivered the shoes to an ecstatic Chef Bottura. "He's a very humble man," said Weis. "But turned into a kid on Christmas Day when he opened up each pair." And while it was clear he loved both, he was most excited by the Grey/Yellow 993s that bore his name. "They went on his feet immediately," added Weis. "His name being on them meant so much to him."
For his part, Marcucelli was honored to make Chef Bottura custom NB shoes. When asked why he chose to design two pairs instead of just one, he responded, "When going out to dinner, it's usually difficult to choose just one entree or dessert at a prestigious restaurant, so I applied the same philosophy to shoes."
"A little indulgence is a good thing," he added with a smile.