'Top Chef' winner Michael Voltaggio dishes on tattoos, Padma and his brother
Voltaggio, who won the sixth season of "Top Chef" against the other chef'testants including his older brother Bryan, already has amassed plenty of ink on his body. In particular, he's known for a tattoo of a knife and fork on his hand and a spoon on one forearm.
"At the end of the day, you should tell a story through the art on your body," he told Zap2it on a call after the "Top Chef" finale. "I have a knife and fork on my hand, which is on the hand I use to plate food with to remind myself that people are about to eat this. So every time I'm plating, I'm thinking about that.
"And the spoon I have on my arm, that's like 'Well, you have a knife and fork, where's the spoon?' So naturally I had to get a spoon too. So I just tell anybody who asks, I'm just like, 'I have a silverware fetish.'"
When I asked if he was planning to celebrate his "Top Chef: Las Vegas" win with yet another tattoo, he was initially against the idea.
"I'm not really that guy. I don't think I'll have the 'TC 6' knife tattooed on my body, no," he said and then reconsidered. "Maybe a poker chip. You know what? Yeah, I'm probably going to get a tattoo of a poker chip."
There you have it.
Another highlight of the conference call was when Voltaggio revealed he actually thought his brother should have won and though host/judge Padma Laksmi had made a mistake. Check out the clip of the winning moment below.
"I was actually really confused because Padma actually mixed our names up throughout the whole season," Voltaggio admitted. "There were a lot of times where Padma was like, 'Micha--, Bry--, s***, we got to reshoot that.' So when she said it, I was like, 'Oh crap, is this one of those moments where Padma mixed us up?' I really thought Bryan won. I would have bet my $15 thousand from the M resort that Bryan won. And it turns out that she was actually looking at me and saying my name at the same time. So I was overwhelmed. I was shocked, honestly shocked."
Check out what else Voltaggio had to say about finalist Kevin Gillespie's "simple" cooking style, taking risks during competition and his relationship with his mom and brother:
Did you or Bryan decide to go for "Top Chef" together?
Michael Voltaggio: I think it was more of my idea. I had Marcel from Season Two as my sous chef, and Hung one of the contestants from another season was one of my cooks as well, and the three of us were actually hanging out together one night. I was kind of making fun of them, like, "Ha ha, 'Top Chef, blah blah blah." They were like, "Well, why don't you go do it." Then I got the idea that maybe I should do it. Then the James Beard awards came out and Bryan and I had both been nominated for best new restaurant, so then I called Bryan and was like, "Hey, maybe we should do this thing together." It turns out we did it and we went all the way together.
Will you stay as the Chef de Cuisine at The Dining Room at the Langham Huntington Hotel or will you strike off on your own?
Voltaggio: No, I need to have a job. I'm not independently wealthy yet. I totally plan on staying where I'm at. Bryan and I are actually working on some things together for future projects, but now I think our first focus will be on maybe a book together. We just launched a website, Voltaggio Brothers.com. We need the platform to built our stuff moving forward and brand our stuff.
Regarding what you said about Kevin's cooking: "I cook the food Kevin cooks on his day off." Do you still feel that way?
Voltaggio: Here's the deal with that quote and a lot of the stuff that you see on the show. We can only judge each other's food by the way it looks, and that's really where that comment comes from. I put everything into a dish every single time. The look of it, the taste of it, how beautiful it is, how much work I put into it. So naturally, I'm like, "I did more work than he did." So that's where that comes from. That being said, Kevin's food is some of the tastiest I've ever had. The potato salad he made on the air force episode is literally the best potato salad I've ever eaten in my life. So he's a brilliant cook.
Why did you decide to take so many risks during the competition?
Voltaggio: When I decided to do [the show] I thought it was going to be easy. I'll be honest with you. I've watched past seasons, and I think everyone sort of did a good job, and the person that won was always -- you can pick them out from the very beginning. You're like, "Okay, that guy's gonna win." So I thought for me it was going to be the same case, but then I realized, "Wait a second. There's five, six, seven people here that are really talented. I'm going to have to do something a little bit more just to stand out from the pack."
What was it like knowing that your mother was there eating your first course during the final elimination round?
Voltaggio: I think I was more worried about her than I was me at that point. She had to sit there and experience what happens on the show, like she had to listen to critiques and as a mom I'm sure it's hard to listen to other people talk bad about your children. So I'm sitting there hoping that mom doesn't come across the table at somebody for saying the wrong thing.
Is $125,000 enough to make your culinary dreams come true and open up your own restaurant?
Voltaggio: It's not enough, but it's some time to think about what it is you want to do. I mean, $125,000 gives you a little bit more freedom. You're not thinking, "Whoa, wait a second, how am I going to pay my car payment this month?" If tomorrow I decide I need to open my own restaurant now, I could use that money to support myself in the process of getting the real money that I need because honestly the reality is to open a restaurant, it takes about a million dollars. To do it at the level that I want to do it. My brother's restaurant was almost $1.5 million and that was in the city of Frederick, Maryland.
What is the ideal kind of restaurant you would open?
Voltaggio: I think for now I'm content where I'm at. If in fact I do open something on my own, I could see maybe Bryan and I collaborating on a project together. Los Angeles is where I'd want to do it.
How has doing the show changed your relationship with your brother?
Voltaggio: It's brought us closer. We're on the phone together every single day now. Whether it's personal or professional, we're talking to each other on the phone. As busy as we both are with our actual real lives, it's rare that you can talk to anyone every single day, but Bryan and I are constantly on the phone talking about food, talking about friends, talking about family. We spent 24 hours a day together for a month, so we were either going to kill each other or get to know each other a little bit better.
Has it changed the relationship with anyone else close to you?
Voltaggio: My mother in particular, for her it brought us all a lot closer because she's really excited about it. For Bryan and I both it was awesome to let her be proud of us for something. Like, I didn't get good grades in high school. I was kind of like bad growing up, always in trouble ... like, "I hope mom doesn't find out what I did today." So it was really, really cool to see her be proud of us because it's not something like I've been able to experience because I've basically been a screwup my whole life.
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Photo credits: MyLastBite.com, Bravo