Q&A Part II: Bryan and Michael Voltaggio

Q&A Part II: Bryan and Michael Voltaggio

In the second installment of a two-part series, the chef brothers talk about balancing their celebrity and restaurant lives

Brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio were minted as celebrity chefs after their appearance in 2009 on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” program.

Michael was crowned that season’s Top Chef, while his brother Bryan was the first runner up.

Bryan leads the Frederick, Md., restaurant Volt, while Michael recently debuted his Los Angeles restaurant, ink., and a sandwich shop, ink. sack. in that city. The brothers also work together on their celebrity chef careers, including a new book, Volt ink.

In the second part of an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News senior food editor Bret Thorn, the brothers talk about balancing their lives as working chefs with the celebrity spotlight.

RELATED: Q&A Part I: Bryan and Michael Voltaggio [3]

How do you balance operating restaurants with the demands of celebrity life?

Michael Voltaggio: We close our restaurants two days a week. We work seven days a week. Five are in the restaurant and the other two are generally on the road or in an airport.

Bryan Voltaggio: My family’s with me on this trip, so I’m trying to combine that and maintain some sort of a balance. It is difficult.

Michael: The fact that there’s two of us helps. It helps a lot to have somebody that you can trust and rely on who thinks and works with the same discipline and passion that you have.

Bryan, was Volt closed two days a week before you became a celebrity?

Bryan: We were having mediocre Tuesday nights and mediocre Wednesday nights. We basically consolidated those days and closed Monday and Tuesday.

I’m trying to make it so we can do things outside of our restaurants and still be present at our stoves. We’re really cooks, and we’re passionate about what we do and we want to stay true to that.

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What do you think of the career trajectory for so-called celebrity chefs?

Michael: I think [celebrity chef] used to be an oxymoron, and now I think it’s becoming a little more acceptable, as long as you can do both.

So many chefs back in the day would work their asses off and create these restaurants and hit their peak and then start this kind of descent, and all of a sudden they’re retired with no money and broke and miserable and they wonder what happened.

We’re very fortunate that now in the industry you can create more for yourself than a job. You can create a career that you can build off of that becomes more sustainable.

Bryan: You’re starting to see more of this: Chefs who have made a name for themselves realize that they aren’t able to continue to open and operate spaces on their own, but then they take people who work for them and create opportunities for them to be part of those businesses.

I plan to do that as I mature if I’m fortunate enough. I’ll realize at some point that some of the guys and gals who are working for me could create some really great things. And I would want to support those to help sustain my own business.

Michael: I’ll be in my kitchen for another 10 years before I’ll be able to think about doing something like that. We’re just at the beginning, but I’d like to say that would be the goal, to have a career like that.

It’s amazing that people come out to see us. It’s still so surreal for us to know that people get in line for us.

But I wouldn’t change any of it, and we’re still grounded and don’t forget how hard we worked to get here.

Now the biggest fear is making sure you don’t lose it. You still have to work with the same momentum. I had to leave the restaurant early on Sunday, so I came to work earlier so everything would be set up, so when I did have to go the airport and fly on the red-eye to get to New York, I was at work until the last possible moment.

Bryan: The most difficult part is walking out of your restaurant. I had to do that on Sunday, too, to drive up to New York. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where that’s okay.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] [4].
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary [5]