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Bryan Voltaggio: The Good Son?
Bryan talks about his and his brother's relationship with guest judge Charlie Palmer.
Bravotv.com: Charlie Palmer as guest judge: What was that like for you?
The first thing that was on my mind was the fact that the other chefs all know that both Michael and I worked for him. I was concerned that the chefs might be indifferent about the judging. That, however, was motivation for me to be sure that I brought my best game. I also wanted to be sure that I did not let my Chef down. I worked for him for almost 10 years; he gave me plenty of opportunity to grow in my career. He gave me the tools, inspiration, and confidence to open my first restaurant, VOLT. Having all of that on your mind also made me pretty nervous during those challenges.
Bravotv.com: You said you thought Michael thought Charlie didn’t like him — why do you think that is?
Michael has always has said that. I think it is a little of the sibling rivalry showing. Michael worked for Charlie at Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. Michael's style is a bit different than Charlie's so I know that they had many discussions about menus. There may have even been a "Hey, why don't you be a little more like Bryan?" every once in a while. However, Michael may be reading this for the first time, there were plenty of compliments from Charlie regarding the work Michael did in Healdsburg. I heard it a lot when he came to town in D.C. Michael is a good cook and Charlie saw that in him. Michael is just pretty stubborn sometimes and Charlie does not put up with a lot of crap. That can also sometimes create great things; differences of opinion breeds ideas. Hey, a Michelin star was awarded. Not to speak for Charlie, but I am sure he is proud to see both Michael and I here and where we have gone with our careers.
I am very comfortable pairing wine and food. I had the opportunity when opening Charlie Palmer Steak D.C. to work with Keith Goldston. He is one of few Master Sommeliers in the country and we worked together on many dinners featuring wine makers where we paired multi-course menus. I am a student of wine as well. I spend a good amount of time researching, if you know what I mean. At my restaurant wine plays as much into our menus as the food; both have equal importance and are respected as so. So when we sit down to plan the Kitchen Menu where we pair beverages we put a lot of thought into the process. My Sommelier Neil Dundee has a knack for finding both fun and very food-friendly wines. We even keep a somewhat regular after-service blind tasting challenge between the two of us. Keeps us in tune and also sometimes lightens one or the other's wallet!
As for the choice in Pinot, when working for Charlie, I was introduced to Rochioli wines on the list in D.C. The list was all 50 states so there was a heavy concentration in California wine. So when I saw the Pinots I was very comfortable in the flavor profiles of most. For example Mischief and Mayhem is listed as a vertical on my list at VOLT, so I was familiar with that wine as well as most of the others. Rochioli however is very highly allocated so it was not on my list at the time. Proud to say it does now! So I went with a familiar wine that I also never get the chance to drink anymore!
I can answer the last part of the question pretty easily. Tom Rochioli and Charlie are friends, pretty much neighbors in Healdsburg. Tom has even been Charlie's boys' baseball coach as I remember. But keep in mind, Michael wanted that wine too. He just did not get the first choice!
Bravotv.com: Everyone is just sooo anti-Robin at this point, but you seem to stay out of it. What was your relationship like with her?
I came here to cook is my position behind my behavior with the other chefs and the challenges. In my kitchen I don't let personal feelings get in the way of my goals and the goals of my team. Why would I change that now? I also believe that all of the chefs on this season deserve to be here. The experience levels are very different amongst the group; some push the envelope and don't succeed, some play it safe and stay under the radar. That's the game and I see a few of the chefs letting that part overwhelm them and it fuels confrontation. My relationship with Robin was good. I do respect her for her strength in overcoming her illness and keeping in under her control. It takes a lot of a person to do that. She should be proud of what she has accomplished so far. I do, however, know we have completely different views when it comes to cuisine, but that only makes our food different, not better or worse.
Bravotv.com: Your brother said his food is riskier than yours — what’s your take on it?
Michael's food is different in some aspects yet similar in others. I believe we both have a great handle on fundamental technique. We are both classically trained and have worked in similar style kitchens during our careers. Michael uses the term risky. I don't believe that is the best way to describe the differences. Michael for example in the dessert challenge used flavors that did not seem to fit in with the challenge. His dish was great, I tried the ponzu and he dit it spot-on, really well balanced. I don't call that risky. I also know how to make a great ponzu. I think more into the guest's experience and sometimes leave my personal preferences off the menu. That could be the differentiation between our styles.
Bravotv.com: Michael said he knows exactly what buttons to push with you and Kevin thinks Michael manipulates you — would you agree?
We know how to push each other's buttons. He just brought it up first. Remember, we have known each other for 30 years! Kevin's impression of our relationship is a little misguided. Michael and I support each other in all aspects of our careers and our personal lives. We are friends before brothers. Like I said about Charlie and Michael's relationship, sometimes opposite views foster more creativity, makes you think harder about the topic or issue. Just because we may have different views on things and Michael may express his opinions more openly does not necessarily mean I agree and or take his advice. I'm simply more reserved, take it all in, then process my own decisions. Anyway, why is Kevin so caught up in what we're doing?
Bravotv.com: Would it have meant more to you to win this challenge behind judged by Charlie?
It would have meant a lot to win. It means a lot to win each challenge. The pigs and pinot event is something I am very familiar with because I worked for Charlie during the creation of the event. I would have liked the opportunity to go to Healdsburg and participate.It's a great event and my wife would have loved to opportunity to get back to wine country for a few days.
Bravotv.com: How upset were you to see the exiting chef go?
Ash was fun to be around. He had this comedic approach to almost every challenge that just kept you laughing to yourself or sometimes uncontrollably out loud. I must say after the Picasso comment he might have checked himself out. I thought it was a great compliment but it seemed he was not expecting to go much further. I would not say I was upset more realizing that some of the people that I have become friends with will also have to go.
Bravotv.com: Who do you think your biggest competition is at this point?
Bravotv.com: Why did u remove the bones from the ribs?
I removed the bones thinking I would present a small square block of braised pork rib. This would not only be easier to eat during the event with a fork especially accompanied by the puree and mostarda. The bone serves its purpose during the braising but could be left off the plate. I wanted to also take something that traditionally is served on the bone and plate it in a different more refined presentation.