“[Mr. Talbot] is among a new breed of celebrity chefs who have coasted into culinary fame, less by grueling dues-paying, and more on their telegenic brand. The group includes the brothers Brian (sic) and Michael Voltaggio, Ludo Lefebvre, Spike Mendelsohn, Sam Mason, Fabio Vivani and Marcel Vigneron.”
Those were fighting words to Michael, who won season six of Bravo's Top Chef. (Brother Bryan, chef/co-owner of award-winning VOLT in Frederick, came in second.) Here’s Michael’s response to the LAT:
“My brother [Bryan] delivered pizza to get through culinary school. Both of us started at 16, that's 16-plus years of experience each. I lived in New York and made $350 a week and could only eat at work because I couldn't afford food. Nothing was ever handed to me. I have and still do work my ass off. . . . It’s only now that chefs can make a decent wage and it comes from branding and the extra things we do outside of work (which gives us more work). . . . I’m truly insulted by this, I have mentally and physically given myself to my craft.”
Michael’s culinary resume includes the Dining Room at the Langham Huntington in California, Jose Andres’ Bazaar, work with chef Charlie Palmer, and stages (worked for free) at restaurants during vacations, “peeling vegetables and cutting lobsters ’til my hands bled.”
Currently, he is getting ready to open the restaurant Ink. in L.A.
As the mother of a chef who has worked long, challenging hours, I can relate to Michael’s comments. I think most chefs would agree.
Photo: from left, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, courtesy of voltaggiobrothers.com