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Massimo Bottura Bullied by Aggressive Anti-Uber Inspectors

Star Italian chef compares incident to KGB

Massimo Bottura
Massimo Bottura
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

The Quebec government and city of Montreal's heavy-handed bid to police Uber and protect the taxi industry snared a prominent victim this week in Massimo Bottura, of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. The star chef, in Montreal for an event to discuss the problem of food waste, was confronted by city taxi inspectors on his way back to his hotel after dinner at Joe Beef's Le Vin Papillon wine bar on Tuesday. The stop was part of an anti-UberX crackdown — Uber and the Quebec government are currently embroiled in a standoff on how best to accommodate the province's taxi drivers and fans of the popular ride-share service at the same time. Bottura, his wife, and two Osteria Francescana cooks, were not in an Uber vehicle, however, but in a rented minivan.

"I had the impression of being in a kind of police state," Bottura told La Presse columnist and food critic Marie-Claude Lortie, and compared the Bureau de taxi de Montréal inspectors to Russian KGB agents. "I don't mind that they're checking the driver's license, but then to petrify all the vehicle's passengers ...," one witness remarked.

After the vehicle was stopped, the inspectors brusquely refused to explain, in English, why it was pulled over, and were aggressive and unpleasant, Bottura alleged. (Nobody in the car understood French.) The World’s 50 Best Restaurant honoree was also irked when a flashlight was pointed at his face, but was able to laugh about the strange incident the next day.

A taxi bureau spokesperson told La Presse that the stop was routine, and not part of a concerted effort to clampdown on ostensibly elevated Uber activity amid C2 Montréal, a tech and creativity conference whose guest list includes Bottura, and the likes of Martha Stewart. "I don't exactly know what happened in this case, but in general, we don't endorse bullying, that's for sure," the taxi bureau rep remarked.