"I never intended to buy this car," says chef Donatella Arpaia, of Donatella and a regular judge on Food Network's Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef. "I arranged to borrow this car for a day as a gift to a longtime loyal employee so they could drive it. As soon as I got behind the wheel, it was love at first sight. I could not describe the complete unexpected thrill that came over me. I felt that I'd arrived. Growing up in an immigrant family, 'work hard and save' was the mantra we lived by. This certainly wasn't a necessary purchase, but for me, as a hardworking woman, it felt like I could finally embrace my power while I was driving this car."
Donatella's culinary memory most associated with the car was with her husband, Allan Stewart. "After my wedding ceremony, my husband, Allan Stewart, and I drove to the ceremony in the Lamborghini," she explained. "I was so excited not only to celebrate, but to taste the menu I had created with the head culinary chef at The Plaza Hotel. It was a menu I had carefully planned for my guests and I could not contain my excitement as we pulled up to see how it turned out! My pastry chef, Andrea Jarosh, at Donatella created my six-tier wedding cake, adding to one of my most memorable culinary experiences to date."
"My car represents my personality and passion for American muscle," explained chef Carlos Barillas of Burger & Beer Joint in Miami. "When we first opened we didn't have a company van for events, so I packed my car with kitchen equipment and burgers to go to a live segment on South Florida Today in Fort Lauderdale for a competition. We won all three votes by judges, and used the trophy as a hood ornament on the way back to Miami."
Chef Sean Brasel of Meat Market in Miami has two Ducati 1000 DS, and yes, that's really him. "Racing is very zen," says chef Brasel. "In my day-to-day life, my mind is in constant motion — thinking about food costs, menu items, creating new, unique dishes, or thinking up restaurant concepts."
The only thing in life that takes him away from all that is racing. "The adrenaline is so intense that the only thing my brain has time to consider is all the components of riding, shifting, taking on the next corner, and who is in front of me."
As for associated culinary memories, chef Brasel said he likes to ride down to Homestead, Fl., during the winter to check out the farms.
"My bike is the way I get around the city," said chef François Payard. "It is my main means of transportation, but it also means freedom. At the end of a long day at work, it is a great way to relieve stress and feel free with the wind blowing through you."
As for his most memorable culinary destination, the chef noted, "When I was younger, I made a trip all over Europe on the bike. I traveled from France to Italy, and through Greece, Yugoslavia, and Turkey. I was able to travel from place to place over a week and taste food from around the world."
"This was my first motorcycle purchase in California," says chef Jason Rose of Ram's Gate in Sonoma. "Cooking and motorcycling is why I came here in the first place, as it’s the best place in America to do both. It was also very special to me because it was my sole means of transportation for four years. Year round, rain or shine, I was on that motorcycle."
As for associated culinary memories, Rose noted, "One of my favorite, most memorable rides on this bike was heading up to the Jimtown Store in Alexander Valley. It's like the place I have always wanted to own. Simple, rustic, homegrown, and delicious."
"The bike is literally a dream come true because it allows me to escape the daily reality and get away from everything once in a while," says chef Hubert Keller, possibly one of the coolest chefs around. Seriously, look at the photo and try to argue it.
As for a culinary memory associated with his Fatboy, "I love to ride up north on Highway One and stop at Nick's Cove to enjoy the freshest oysters and look out over the water. It's a wonderful experience and one that I enjoy very much."
"Like many chefs, I'm an adrenaline junkie," admitted chef Mike Lata of FIG in Charleston, S.C. "I need to find release and riding my bikes — be it on the racetrack or in the mountains — gives me that."
Lata loves the challenges of multi-tasking through 14-hour days, but also needs balance. "The bike offers solitude. Inside my helmet, my universe is tiny. As I weave through the chicane looking for the best line, I become connected to the machine — in the zone. Just me and my finely tuned Italian machine, revving and surging, feeling the exact point of contact where the rubber meets the road. Precision, finesse, and execution are mine to master and mine alone, quite the departure from what I leave at the restaurant."
As for culinary memories, he once flew to Italy with chefs and wine professionals, ditching the group to ride a Ducati he rented from Lucca to Bologna and back. "During the three days I passed through the Tuscan mountains, I was fortunate to enjoy many off-the-beaten path restaurants and got a great sense of rural Italian food. I still draw inspiration from that trip."
"I am the caretaker of a 1969 Lamborghini Islero GTS, one of only 100 built," explained chef John Clark, co-owner of Foreign Cinema and Show Dogs in San Francisco. "The first owner was in Switzerland. The car then moved to Belgium, where it was part of a private Lamborghini museum, and it came to the U.S. around 2005. I purchased the car in 2007."
As for what it means to him, the chef noted, "The Islero is one of the greatest front-engined Lambos of all time. It was a modernization of the previous model the 400GT, which was designed in 1967 (125 were built). Sig. Ferruccio Lamborghini played a major role in the design of the Islero. He wanted a car for himself and one that would attract like-minded business professionals and the wealthy. He said on many occasions that it was his favorite Lamborghini."
"I grew up on motorcycles and ATVs, so it is in my blood," said chef Johnny Iuzzini, co-host of Top Chef Just Desserts, and most recently of Jean Georges in New York City. "I got my first street bike at 17. A little 400 cc Honda CB-1. I love my bikes because it gives me time alone in my head. I can't talk to anyone, no email, text, etc. It gives me time to think, to clear my head, to focus, to reflect and to just be alone."
As for culinary associations with his customized bike, "No great ones as of yet other than short trips to visit farmers in the Catskills and eastern Long Island." But he has one planned for spring that was inspired by actor Ewan McGregor's Long Way Round.
"If Top Chef Just Desserts (shot in L.A.) gets picked up for a third season, I plan on shipping my moto out and riding home to New York. This will be anything but a straight line. I have bike friends all over the country, so a few may jump in and cut out, but the plan is to zigzag all the way home and document the trip while eating at destination restaurants, truck stops, mom and pop spots, camping, plus a whole lot of sightseeing. I have traveled extensively around the world, but never really in my own country as an adult."
"The bike in the photo is a 2008 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe," noted chef John Stage of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Manhattan and upstate New York. "But I have two other bikes — a 1957 Panhead and a 1974 Shovelhead (both are Harleys, too). I’ve been riding Harleys since 1981, so it goes beyond a mode of transportation. It has always been a lifestyle to me."
As for culinary memories, Stage said there have been too many to recount. "The two most memorable were years ago. First, when I rode to Memphis in the mid-'80s, I viewed the city as a barbecue Shangri-la, but when I returned through Mississippi and Alabama, I got my first taste of real barbecue."
The other great ride was to Austin. "I took my meat supplier and my chef and hit all the legendary joints in a 60-mile ring of Austin; I thought the poor bastards were going to explode. We tore up barbecue by day and the music scene by night with some beautiful Hill Country riding in between."
“I have a 1971 Chevy Chevelle with the original red and black interior, and a completely custom 1968 Chevy Impala Convertible that was painted using a paint process called candy," explained chef Michael Galata of Circo in New York City. "It's a lost art where the layering of paint and colors makes a new color. The interior is two-tone brown and tan ostrich leather. It has an all-chrome 350 motor and is perfect. These cars mean freedom, style, good times, and paying homage to the cool things America once produced. They're living, breathing, gas-guzzling pieces of art, and in New York, cars are so rarely embraced, while art is."
Galata's most memorable moment was driving late to work: "My top was down and it started pouring rain. The top broke and would not go up and my back seats were filled with veg coming from the farmers market. I drove from 16th Street to 55th Street on Sixth Avenue, not looking very cool driving that day.”
"My bike is a 2008 Harley Davidson Fat Bob that has been modified to what I now call a 'Fat Glide,'" says chef Scott Crawford of The Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary, N.C. "I ordered the bike months before it came out. It arrived the day my son was born. He has been in the garage with me through a lot of the customizing. He has his own set of tools and copies everything I do. That's why this bike is so important to me. I will never sell it. Instead, I will pass it down to him."
As for his most memorable culinary destination, it was a ride from Florida to North Carolina during which, "My brother and I explored all the diner, food truck, and roadside food you can imagine. Roadside food is simple, but there's definitely a difference between what's good and bad. We became connoisseurs."
"It doesn't have a ring tone, but the more I put into it the faster it goes," explained chef Michael Chiarello of Bottega in Napa Valley. "I seldom have to push it, unlike the rest of the challenges in my life."
As for the most memorable culinary association with his bike, the chef noted, "I hope to create this memory on my 50th birthday in the Basque country of Spain: 50 years old, five friends, five days, 500 miles, and 5,000-calorie dinners each night. Can't wait."
"I've been an enthusiast of two-wheeled vehicles since my first BMX bike, which was an aluminum GT with pegs, pretty cool for the '80s!" says chef/owner of Charm City Cakes, Duff Goldman, who rides a 2010 Ducati Monster 1100s Tricolore with carbon-wrapped frame, carbon fiber panels, and Termignoni exhaust. "Traffic in L.A. sucks. Getting around is a nightmare. Being on a bike means I can go in between cars, sidestep traffic, and make commuting in L.A. a fun adventure instead of a frustrating slog. It also lets you see and hear the city and landscape. Being in a car is like watching TV, life goes by through a rectangle you look through. Being on a motorcycle, you get the sights and smells. You feel the road. You're aware of what's going on around you. This bike is fun as hell and fast as sh*t!"
As for culinary memories, Duff bought his bike from GoAZ Cycles in Scottsdale, Ariz., after delivering a life-size baby elephant cake. "I was going to be moving from Baltimore to L.A. soon, so I bought it and drove it to my mom's house in Palm Springs so it would be there when I moved. So it represents two things: One of the most amazing cakes my bakery ever produced and the first substantial commitment to starting a bakery on the West Coast. I really do love this ride."
"My Bayliner is my childhood dream realized," says chef Jacques Torres of Jacques Torres Chocolate in New York City. "The water is my haven. It grounds me; erases the hectic pace of New York City; and connects me to home in Bandol, France, where I used to play among the boats as a child and always dreamed of owning one myself."
As for culinary associations, the most memorable, "was in June, 2009 on my 50th birthday. I piloted the boat with my wife Hasty to Jacques Pépin’s home in Connecticut. It was a weekend celebration with friends filled with cooking."
"I have a classic 1992 'Fat Boy' Harley Davidson, two cylinders, four-stroke, 1340cc, with twin gas caps," says chef David Bouley of Bouley and Brushstroke in New York City, whose most memorable culinary associations with his Harley have been along the coastline of New England. "No two Fat Boys are the same. Each is a work of art without losing any fun factor. It's great for cruising, especially for a classic."