You might think that after 2,700 words on Bryan Voltaggio — hardly the standard length for a Food section feature — I'd have little else to say about the celebrity cook who makes his "Top Chef Masters" premiere tonight on Bravo. But you'd be wrong.
The fact is, I spent so much time with Bryan and his younger brother, Michael, that plenty of good material had to be trimmed away, like so much excess fat. But if fat equals flavor in the world of animal proteins, then extra reporting equals more insights into one of the area's most recognizable chefs. Below are a number of random quotes and thoughts that didn't make it into today's story.
Michael Voltaggio on his older brother's cooking:
"Bryan is one of the best cooks I’ve met. Bryan’s definitely a better technician. At the basic stuff, Bryan is better than me. Where we vary is, I’ll just go off on my own direction, and sometimes it’s successful and sometimes it’s not. Bryan will have a very definitive path to get to his destination, where I might take a few detours along the way. That’s probably the biggest difference in our styles, and I think that’s been evident for our entire career."
Bryan Voltaggio on the notion that his younger brother is a more "creative" cook:
"Yes, I agree with that. I think he feels sometimes apprehensive about saying that because to say a chef is not creative, you feel you’re taking something from him…I certainly think I’m creative. I certainly think I bring a lot to the plate. I think Michael can take it that much further.”
Evidence of Michael Voltaggio's creativity, from a meal I had at Ink. in Los Angeles:
A plate of cuttlefish, central California melon and jalapeno gelee. The cuttlefish has been transformed into "pasta," the melon cut from the juicy center "tenderloin" of the fruit, as Michael calls it, and the entire plate is finished with creme fraiche, olive oil and dehydrated-and-fried pieces of cuttlefish. It was fresh, bright and delicious; its creativity also did not scream for attention, like so much modernist cooking does.
Jennifer Voltaggio on how she became friends with Bryan in Governor Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick:
"He would come sit at my table at lunch every day in senior year, and he never had anything to eat. I suspect he was waking up just in time to get to school. And he never bought lunch probably because he didn't want to spend his own money. So I felt sorry for him and started giving him half of my lunch. Then, after a week or so I just started packing him a lunch everyday. That's how we became friends."
Bryan Voltaggio on how he became friends with Jennifer in high school:
"The funny thing was that I never dated her. I dated all of her friends. I don’t know what inspired me to ask her out. I’m sure it was her, the way she looked. She was always so nice to me over that last year, our senior year. She actually really did make lunch for me.”
Jennifer Voltaggio on what her husband is like away from his restaurants and the kitchen:
"He's not the kind of person that can sit on the couch and watch TV, that's for sure. I can honestly count on one hand the amount of times he's actually done that in the past 19 years. He's usually taking care of our home or trying to spend time with the kids and I. He likes to have fun riding his ATV or hunting or cooking with the kids."
Bryan Voltaggio on whether he and his brother could ever run a restaurant together:
"Even though we work well together in what we do now, putting us in the same kitchen I don’t think would ever work. There would never be the Voltaggio family business or kitchen.”
Chef Charlie Palmer's advice to Bryan on how to balance work with family:
"I’m still trying to figure it out ... I think what you have to do is kind of compartmentalize what you do. I never feel like I’m spending enough time with my kids, but I can tell you when I’m with my kids, I’m 100 percent focused on my kids.”
Michael Voltaggio on asking if he could work in the Holiday Inn kitchen in Frederick when he was a teenager:
“I went to [Bryan] and the other sous-chef, and I’m like, ‘I want to work in the kitchen.’ So they’re like, ‘Okay, show up tomorrow in a chef’s uniform, ready to work.’ The next day, I show up and [Bryan] and the other sous-chef are both off. It was just the executive chef that was there, and they didn’t tell him that I was coming to work in the kitchen. So the guy starts screaming at me, like, ‘Who do you think you are? What is this? Halloween?’ He ripped me apart ... Bryan basically threw me into the fire and took the day off. He let me kind of fend for myself."
Michael Voltaggio on his brother's personality, then and now:
“Bryan, when we were younger, was the more introverted one. He just kind of went with the flow. He’s very laid-back, very easygoing. Bryan avoids confrontation for the most part, especially when we were younger. He’s very easygoing. I’m more intense and more — I don’t want to say combative — but definitely a lot more extroverted and a lot more in-your-face than Bryan was when we were younger.”
Bryan Voltaggio on his perfect job:
“If I could make the living that I make now, support my family in the way I want to do it and live a good lifestyle, I would be a line cook for the rest of my life. I would. I love being a line cook. I’m a chef because of necessity. I’m a cook ... That’s what I'm passionate about.”
Final note: Volt in Frederick will be hosting a viewing party for "Top Chef Masters" on its patio from 9 to 11 p.m. today. There will be complimentary snacks and drink specials. The show begins at 10 p.m., but if you arrive early, you can watch the online program, "Battle of the Sous Chefs." The latter contest is a new feature in which sous-chefs, such as Volt's Graeme Ritchie, compete to give their bosses advantages (or disadvantages) in "Top Chef Masters."
Volt is located at 228 N. Market St. in Frederick. Phone: 301-696-8658.