Burning Questions

Michael Voltaggio explains why his win is kind of bittersweet, and reveals what's next for him.

Dec 9, 20090

Bravotv.com: You had time off and you came back — what were your assumptions about what any of the twists might be in the finale based on what's happened in previous seasons, or how did you prepare for the finale while you were at home?
Obviously once we found out where the finale was, I did research on Napa Valley. And then my preparation for the finale was to change my strategy a little bit, in the sense that I wasn't going to "dumb down" my food, but make it a little more simple, and let the ingredients speak for themselves based on the region of the cuisine we were doing. As far as twists, obviously you always expect to see former contestants in some capacity.

Bravotv.com: Usually maybe another course, did you think that would happen?
Yeah, I was definitely expecting another course. I made sure that I brought extra ingredients that I could tie into an extra course no matter what, so I wouldn't have too much thought into making an extra course at the last moment, almost have an idea of what I would want to do, and then use whatever we were given to put everything together.

Bravotv.com: What was going through your mind when you saw what the ingredients were in the mystery box?
None of this stuff goes together!

Bravotv.com: So what did you do to make it work?
I think first you had to look at the quality of the ingredients — some of it was OK, some of it wasn't so great. So my idea first and foremost take the stuff that wasn't good and try and make it taste better. I really just concentrated on flavor, because the ingredients, if they don't go together, obviously you need to make them mesh, so come up with an overall theme for the whole dish, then make all the ingredients work with that theme.

Bravotv.com: Did Padma's pregnancy affect your menu at all?
I think all of us, out of respect for Padma, we weren't going to serve raw fish. We asked her if her pregnancy meant no raw seafood. She then said to us, "I'll taste it, I'll judge it, but I would appreciate it if you guys didn't."

Bravotv.com: What was your immediate reaction when your mom came to the door of the hotel room?
I can't remember what we were expecting; I think we thought Tom or Padma was coming to the door. We can always tell when something's about to happen. So we were waiting for that twist, and then when saw it was just our parents, we were happy and surprised.

Bravotv.com: You had to draw knives for your sous-chefs. If you could have chosen sous-chefs, whom would you have wanted?
Mike Isabella and Eli.

Bravotv.com: And what was your reaction when you selected sous-chefs?
Well I got Eli, so I was happy, because Eli was like my little son on the show. He has a very similar style of food. He likes the kind of food that I cook, so it'd be easy to dial him into my whole situation. And as far as Jesse is  concerned, I was actually excited to be able to work with her.

Bravotv.com: What was the inspiration for each dish?
The inspiration was to just cook simple. Not overdo or overanalyze everything, and just put tasty food out. If you look back at the season and what people were most successful with, at the end of the day it wasn't the tricks and the presentation and all the things I did; it came down to flavor and in some cases it came down to salt, so I just made sure the food was seasoned properly, cooked properly, and tasted good.

Bravotv.com: When you saw who was going to judge, and these are all people who have money to invest in restaurants, and you want to open your restaurant at some point, what was your reaction?
I was like, "Shit." The first person I saw at the table was Sam, and Sam actually owned the last restaurant where I worked. That made me a little bit nervous. Sam's a great guy. I didn't think he had any ill will towards me but at the same time you have some of the most successful restaurateurs sitting at one table, and they pick chefs based on meals like that, so I think we were all nervous.

Bravotv.com: How do you think you sous-chefs worked out?
I think my sous-chefs worked out great. Jesse was my prep horse the night before, so she got all the little stuff done that I needed to get done. Eli was there to make sure I crossed my Ts and dotted my Is. He helped me finish my sentences and get my food on the plate.

Bravotv.com: Do you blame Eli at all for the cake, or was that your fault?
The cake was totally my fault. I stuck it in the oven, and obviously nerves got the best of me, and I just totally forgot about it.

Bravotv.com: What was your immediate reaction to Padma announcing you won? You probably had the most stoic reaction of any winner we've ever had.
Well, I was standing there knowing that my brother won. I was standing there thinking, "Bryan won, Bryan won." So I was ready to turn and hug Bryan and say, "Hey man congratulations, you deserve it." And then when she said my name, emotions just took over. I was like, REALLY? I was shocked. I was in shock. I had no control of anything. I wasn't standing there thinking, "Oh I have this one in the bag," like I have in the past. Honestly if Bryan had won, I wouldn't have said, 'Well I don't think he should have won; my food was better." Because honestly, at that moment, I thought Bryan had put up a better showing than I did.

Bravotv.com: Kevin even says he thinks Bryan won. Did that change your mind at all?
I mean I think even Bryan thought Bryan won! We all thought Bryan won. When it came down to the critiques, it really came down to the seasoning. It just shows how important it is to make sure you don't forget seasoning — you don't forget to put salt on your food. I think a lot of times that separates a good restaurant from a great restaurant. You think well this food tastes a little better, and sometimes it's just salt.

Bravotv.com: Well you cried, and you weren't very emotional this season — are you a big crier?
No, I never do. I never do. I think it was everything added up. I think my mind, my body knew how to react to the whole situation and I think my head exploded at that moment. But I mean honestly, we had been standing in that spot for hours, so my legs were sort of hurting. I'm like, "Aww, I get to relax now."

Bravotv.com: What are you going to do with the prize money?
The first thing I'm going to do is open accounts for my daughters so that they have money, but money they can't touch until they're 18. Bryan and I have great parents, but we are sort of self-made. We went after our own careers, Bryan put himself through college, and I didn't go to college. I want my daughters to have some piece of this, something to start with. And the rest of it? I don't know. I'm a car guy. I'll probably get myself another new car. But it's $125,000 dollars to help jumpstart your career, so obviously that money is going to go towards that as well. I'll invest it in myself, in the sense that I want to grow a brand.

Bravotv.com: Did you feel as the younger brother that you had something to prove when competing against Bryan?
I don't think I had something to prove. Honestly, when it came down to that moment, I didn't want to win. I didn't want either one of us — I was hoping they'd say, "You both won! Congratulations it's the first time in Top Chef history!" Because you can't celebrate when you know your bother is standing next to you, and he doesn't have the same thing to celebrate about. I worked for a chef one time and he went to take the Certified Master Chef test, and it's one of the hardest tests you can take. There were ten people in his class, and he was the only one who passed. At the end of the whole grueling process, he didn't have anybody to celebrate with, because no one else had passed. So it just kind of sucked, at that moment.

301 comments
jonn2
jonn2

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Foodmama
Foodmama

You are a class act! It was great to see you in the season 7 finale! You are so talented, and now I see how warm you can be. Great to see you smile! Kevin could not have asked for a better sous chef.

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India escorts service

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Don
Don

I was a huge fan of Kevin's from the beginning, and was happy to see that he made it so far. I'm not going to take anything away from Michael and say that someone else should have won - if you're not there and don't taste the food, it's idiotic to say things like that. I do wish Kevin had won because he more than anyone combined being a great chef with being a great overall person. He's the kind of guy you'd love to go out drinking with. (After a great dinner that involved lots of pork, that is!) I'll be getting over to his place in Atlanta as soon as I can - unless he's moved on to something bigger and better.

Fred-Rick
Fred-Rick

Big ups to the Volt boys and Kevin. Three of the most talented cheftestants ever.

And...I just scored reservations for dinner for 4 at Volt on 3/12/10 for Fredneck restaurant week.....Yum!!!!!

K.Lim
K.Lim

Geez, so many hater comments. Come on guys, just suck it up and give some props to Michael. Kevin and Bryan have such bright futures ahead of them so stop being bitter just because neither of them got the title.

And a big CONGRATS to you Michael!! I saw mad heart in your food all season long. Can't want to see what lies ahead for all of these exquisite chefs!

cubanogm
cubanogm

I love that Michael V won.I was routing for him the whole season.Bryan is a great chef but he seems so dry.Michael V instead he shouts,gets angry,has a personality.I like him a lot and wish him a great future.Unfortunately he is in the West Coast and I live in Miami Beach otherwise I would be a regular at his restaurant.Love to tate his food.Congrats Michael V.Let me know when do you open your restaurant in Miami Beach.You already have a customer and probably a few more since I intent to drag my friends to it.

amarettocookie
amarettocookie

Michael, $125,000 seems like a lot of money but my son got drafted by the MLB last year and almost half of it is gone (that's not including what the gov took out). He got exactly that amount (can you move to Florida - they've got no state taxes there) and our state would have taken another $12,000 out. Before you know it the money could be gone. It becomes pocket change, expensive meals out. But hey, you're young. Have fun with it. Best of luck to you.

kids4acure_
kids4acure_

I really enjoyed this show and I was so Happy Micheal won he's got Heart and he can really cook.Best wishes and much success to you Micheal V.,your brother also.congrats!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tokoma_Senja
Tokoma_Senja

Also, I feel so happy right now. My mom and one of my friend who likes Top Chef both think Kevin should have won. I like Michael Voltaggio, and thought I was one of the only people who liked Michael. So I'm just so happy to see that all these people have good taste.

Tokoma_Senja
Tokoma_Senja

I can relate to Michael. I too, am a little brother who has always had the burning desire to kick his brother's ass. If you're a little brother, beating your big brother is seriously one of the greatest things in the world. If you don't believe me, remember this.

Padma: Why do you want to be Top Chef? Michael: I just wanna beat Brian.

Kelli Spelce
Kelli Spelce

I think early on in the competition, The brothers were going to ace this season. I loved most of the chefs that made it for the last final contests. The chance to see what they did and how they did it was great, and I really enjoyed it. Congrats to Micheal! I think you and your brother are wonderful; and I do wish along with Micheal that there had been an announcement that for the first time in Top Chef history that you both had won. That would of been choice!

Best Wishes,

Kelli Spelce,LVN

johnny C
johnny C

I have been watching Top Chef from the start.I'M SURE Michael is a great Chef.BUT it seems that thay had a real easy meal to fix.More courses shoud have been required.Need more courses next time.

Rosalyn M.
Rosalyn M.

I'm pleased with the results. I have nothing but mad love and respect for both Michael and Bryan. I learned so much from both of them. They are honestly passionate and love what they do. I too want to be a chef and watching them really inspired me and tought me alot. CONGRATULATIONS Michael!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Best of luck to you and your brother.

tahumada
tahumada

Luv me some top chef!! I was hoping for both brothers to win too! that would of been great! But was going for Michael! Great Job! You guys are both very talented! Lots of luv from San Angelo,Tx

sewcookdraw
sewcookdraw

I felt that Bryan was the best top chef plus he has the best personality. He won 2 out of 4 dishes so it puzzled me how the judges judged. I didn't really care for Michael but congrats anyway.

karenoh
karenoh

Congratulations on the win. My husband I both felt that any one of the three finalists could have won and Michael, you cooked the best meal on the final day. I do know that when we travel we will make a point of booking a reservation in the restaurant of any one of the final three. WEll done.

Angels26
Angels26

To compete on that level takes guts. I congratulate all the chefs from all seasons on there accomplishments. The final three chefs; Kevin, Bryan and Micheal totally rocked! I was sad that Bryan didn't win, but what heck, it's all in the family. Here's to the Voltaggios and their mom; she did an awesome job raising to great people!

itsme1111111
itsme1111111

I do not care what is next for Michael. He was super HOT and I am in love with a Michael!!!! He was by far the best chef and the best contestant. Love you Michael!!! Congrats! You are amazing!!! ;)

Carmela
Carmela

Congrats Michael...you were my fav during the whole season...Thank God for DVR I didnt miss a show....I love your brother as well...but I knew that you had it because you went outside the norm. I would have loved to be a judge just to taste your meals.....what an ending...You are the bomb. And I respect the diplomatic way you took the title but gave kudos to your brother...wish you had your own show. Best of luck!!! I might take a trip just to go eat at your restaurant.

Sherry
Sherry

NO DOUBT about it--Bryan was MUCH Better and should have won. Guess I'll sit out the next Top Chef or more...cannot believe it. Look at that night and ALL the previous episodes--BRYAN WON! What were they thinking??!!

YES I would have loved hearing that BOTH won rather than just the little jerk Michael.

Ahhh guess there's a lesson in there somewhere...I'm still tuning out Top Chef--something's very wrong with the judging.

Yes I loved Jen and Kevin--but they both were off when they needed to be on...understandable. But not the mistakes of Michael vs. the mistakes of Bryan. How in the world did Michael take it when his dishes were more criticized and Tom even said Bryan's dishes were better??!!

Sadly--goodbye to Top Chef for me. BIG disappointment after one of the best group of chefs--finally competent chefs! Now you just need to inprove the judging.

amateur chef
amateur chef

congrats. you were easily the most aggressive and creative chef there, and your execution was nearly always perfect. despite the competition, you really did stand out. good job and good luck in the future.

Pensacola fan
Pensacola fan

Congrats Michael, you deserve the win, as did Bryan. I was disappointed Bryan didn't win any money during the whole show. Kevin did all right with his wins but Bryan won with no prize money for the elimination wins. That's a shame.

Melinda Zellmer
Melinda Zellmer

I really wanted Kevin to win Top Chef!!! I have been a fan since day one!! Maybe Top Fan!!! I thought Kevin stayed true to his cooking throughout the show and always found you to be a bit arragant!! Even mean sometimes!! Anyway, I'm nobody so congrats!!

Tania Al
Tania Al

Michael: Congrats . I am sure you are a great Chef . Bryan : To me you are Top chef ,we all enjoyed the way you cook and your great elegant personality . Cant wait to enjoy eating at Volt .All the best !!!!!

Mary Ellen King
Mary Ellen King

Michael you rocked since day one. You are a genious, and truly deserve to win. You also seem to be an amazing human being; no one EVER cried when they won Top Chef, and it was clear that you were crying because you felt sad for your bro. I LOVED your angry side, I'm that way too, and an occasional curse word under severe stress is totally normal--give me a break all you haters.

You are SO HOT--too bad I'm married! But my husband is a Top Chef fan too, so he's cool with it--LOL!

You seriously need a guest appearance out east--maybe I can make it to Pasadena some day--I've gotta taste your food!

critgirl
critgirl

I don't think MV or BV should have won this season. It definitely should have been Kevin who is head & shoulders above the other two. It was a brother/brother season from ep. 1. You could have bet on the outcome. And now Kevin is competing in the Bocuse D'or? If the V. bros are so good, why not them? Just goes to show you how the outcome of these 'reality' shows are planned even before the show is taped. Let this be a warning to future contestants.

Nicole E
Nicole E

By far the best season of Top Chef ever! I really enjoyed it! There were so many great chefs that it was so hard to pick a favorite...but I am excited that Michael won! There needs to be a cookbook put out from this season..not just one dish ( sorry Eli) I am sad that this season is over. Maybe they will all decide to open a place together....in Chicago :) Thanks for all the great cooking!

Margo Z
Margo Z

Congratulations Michael - brilliant!!!!!

MJ Donahue (a senior citizen)
MJ Donahue (a senior citizen)

I've been cooking for a long time. Nothing as beautiful or intricate as what the chefs created. My hat's off to all the contestants. I'm curious as to what happened to Michael, who didn't like any food as a youngster (according to Mom), but decided to become a chef. I think broccoli is the bomb. I roast florets and stalks and finish them with grated parmesan melted at the end. It's for kids that hate broccoli. Best wishes and happy holidays to all the judges, contestants, staff and their families. See you next year!

Shuly K
Shuly K

First,I must say that the show is getting better & better every season Bravoooo. Second,Bryan was my pick & I am glad he was in the top three. Congratulations to all. keep up with the great dishes.

MadisonPacific
MadisonPacific

I was really shocked that the judges and show did NOT choose to have both brothers win...as a mother of four sons, mine would have each wanted to have TIED for the winning once they were in "first and second" place.

It was a shame to me that BRAVO didn't recognize that a family bond would be stronger to have made such a choice (TIE)--in the long run...versus the show and it's own desire.

My sons took time to cover each other up when they were sleeping, without the other knowing it...the distinction between first and second in this case was like a mother having to choose which son she loved most....what a shame to have had to make that call. Shouldn't have been done...

anthialinou
anthialinou

my heart was always set on Michael winning. BRAVO indeed!!

anthialinou
anthialinou

my heart was always set on your win Michael. BRAVO indeed!

farfala
farfala

HI! Michael! Its funny after watching the reunion episode you mentioned you worked in Naples, Florida. Well, I am originally from there. I am very familiar with the restaurants and owners in Naples would love to know where you worked. I am also in NYC.. Wanted to know what's your favorite place to eat :)

JL
JL

I watched the episodes this season, and I thought one of the brothers would win. But then at the finale, I thought Kevin, because he was so consistent in winning challenges.

sasha79
sasha79

I have watched every season and this was my favorite hands down. I was not sure who was going to win I love all 3 of the finalists but I was very excited when Padma called Micheals name. Congrats to everybody!!!!!!

Mars in Maryland
Mars in Maryland

How lucky am I that I only live 25 minutes from Frederick? I can't wait to eat at Volt! (I hope it's not too difficult to get a reservation.)

Jessica Berrios
Jessica Berrios

While I felt that this was the best Top Chef thus far...I was really disappointed with the French chefs that refused to speak english knowing that Kevin did not speak the language. If given the chance to even have a free at either of their restaurants, I would turn it down.

During the reunion one of the judges stated that (not quoting) your experience as a customer weighs heavy with your decision to return to that restaurant...well with that amount of disrespect for Kevin I don't feel that they would respect me as a costumer. He is owed an apology.

Julia
Julia

BRYAN is a top-notch chef, on a higher level than Michael and Kevin (Kevin w/ all his talk about MIT should have been able to figure out how to sous-vide w/o Bryan's help). Michael is on his way there, but not quite there yet, not even with his "Top Chef" title. Serving dry cake is amateurish -- and during the finale, yet. And raw egg? That's unsanitary. Bitter soup that only Tom C. loved? C'mon, Tom. AND, yes what were those fake s? Tacky. (I love Donatella for telling it like it is) Personality-wise, neither brother wins. One is stiff, the other rude. But, boy, I am going to make that trip to VOLT one of these days.

 karl s.
karl s.

I thought that this was the best Top Chef Season. I thought Bryan should have won. It seems that he got shafted when he won the second most most important elimination contest and didn't win anything, but Michael won the car for the quick fire challenge. Both of the Voltaggios and Kevin are amazing chefs at least Bryan and Kevin got free marketing for their restaurants.

Viewer Washington
Viewer Washington

The should pick the winner based on the entire season, not one night!

Ambz
Ambz

I am a huge fan of Top Chef. This season had by far one of the best chefs. Especially, the top four. It was anybody's game. Michael deserved to win, as he went for the out of the box (not the mystery box..duh) approach. And boy...he is HOT!! I have a huge crushh on himm

NaomiK
NaomiK

I think all three contestants are extremely talented in their own ways. Michael inspired me more by cooking "outside the box" and creating amazing dishes off the cuff. I will watch with interest your career.

davismtd
davismtd

Bryan should have won!!!

Especially after Michael's comment about wanting to be Top Chef so that Bryan didn't get it. The season was comradery at it's finest, except for Michael and his nasty comments aimed at the other contestants and also his own brother!! Michael should give Bryan half the money or at least the Prius!!!

PatriciaM
PatriciaM

I am very happy that Michael won. I was on his team the whole season. His food was so interesting and fresh. He and Bryan used the most varied ingredients, unlike Kevin who relied on pork for which every dish he had a choice of ingredients(lame!).

Miss Colby
Miss Colby

Congrats michael!!!!

Congratulations to the rest of the contestants as well.

I agree with the sentiments of most of the people here. This is by far the best top chef season yet. Having my favourite win it all is a plus.

Can't wait for the reunion!!!!