Chef brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio shot to the front of the celebrity chef pack in 2009, when they were the top two finalists of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” program.
Before appearing on “Top Chef,” Bryan already had achieved critical acclaim as the chef at Volt, a fine-dining restaurant in the Voltaggios’ hometown of Frederick, Md.
Michael, meanwhile, was the first chef at The Bazaar, José Andrés’ Los Angeles concept. He has spent the past year working on his own restaurant, ink., also in Los Angeles, which is about a month old.
Although they live on opposite coasts, the brothers work together on their celebrity chef careers, making TV appearances and promoting their new book, Volt ink., while also running their restaurants.
In a two-part interview, Nation’s Restaurant News senior food editor Bret Thorn spoke with the Voltaggio brothers.
Bryan, what do you call the food at Volt?
Bryan Voltaggio: I call it “modern American.” We’re trying to be responsible with our ingredients, we’re trying to apply modern techniques, if you want to call them modern.
I had an amuse-bouche there, a macaroon with foie gras, but it was lighter than a macaroon. How did you make that?
Bryan: We use egg-white powder and methylcellulose, which is a hydrocolloid that gels when heated and then crisps when it cools and helps maintain the macaroon’s shape. It’s a little snack that we’ve been doing for a long time. It’s a nice little first bite.
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I definitely don’t try to do things we can’t achieve at the restaurant. My cooks are still learning how to sear meats and roast fish properly. I’m trying to be responsible in what we teach them, so that the tradition is still carried through in our craft.
Michael Voltaggio: I think people are having a hard time wrapping their fingers around the fact that using modern technology doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a “Molecular Gastronomy” chef.
It just means that you take advantage of the technology and resources available to you, hopefully to improve the food that you’re preparing.
Michael, tell us about your new restaurant, ink.
Michael: We opened it four weeks ago. We’re not calling it modern American, but modern Los Angeles. Really, I think it would fit any city, but we’re calling it Modern L.A. because we’re in L.A.
[It takes] the idea of fine dining and makes it more accessible — so lower price points, but still the same type of food and the same technique, and just maybe not having an over-the-top service model so we don’t have a huge payroll.
Our check averages are in the $60s, but you can still come in and have a terrine of octopus with fried Caesar dressing and crudo of hiramasa.
You also have a new sandwich concept, ink. sack.
Michael: We have six or seven sandwiches on the menu. They’re only four inches big, so you can order two or three of them. We make all of the meats ourselves at ink., except for the sandwich we call the “José Andrés aka the Spanish Godfather,” which is serrano, chorizo, lomo and Manchego with shredded salad with piquillo peppers, olive and olive oil and sherry vinaigrette.
I didn’t grow up dreaming of being a sandwich chef, but now all I want to do is open sandwich shops.
I eat, like, four of those sandwiches every day. I don’t sit down and eat a terrine of foie gras every day.