Top Chef's Michael on Winning: I Thought It Was a Joke
Top Chef, Michael
It was a Voltaggio battle royale on Top Chef's four-course finale challenge, but younger sibling Michael managed to win over the judges with his creative, risky dishes. Find out why the 30-year-old father of two initially thought his victory was a "sick joke" and what caused his emotions to get the better of him after winning. Plus, see how he feels about viewers' comments that he's arrogant and what he and his older brother have planned for the future.
Top Chef's Kevin: People were rooting for my beard to win!
TVGuide.com: Congratulations! What was the first thing that went through your head after you won?
Michael Voltaggio: That somebody made a mistake. Throughout the whole season, Padma was calling me Bryan and calling Bryan Michael. So I was standing there, like, "Did she just do it again? This is a sick joke." Because I honestly thought Bryan had won.
TVGuide.com: Why did you think that?
Voltaggio: Looking at his food throughout the evening, it was just beautiful. I think Kevin put up a great tasting, and I put up a great tasting, but based on looks alone, Kevin and I both thought Bryan had won.
TVGuide.com: What was it like to finally beat your brother?
Voltaggio: Throughout the whole season, I kept saying, "All I want to do is beat Bryan," and at the end of the night, I even said, "I just don't want Bryan to be Top Chef." But the reality is that it sucked. That feeling right there was probably one of the lowest moments of my life. Because he would have been the first person I would have called and been like, "Hey Bryan, I just won Top Chef!" But he was standing right next to me. It didn't feel as good as I thought it should have.
TVGuide.com: What triggered the tears at the end of the episode?
Voltaggio: We were standing there a long time and I'm going to say it was my legs hurting. [Laughs] It was difficult. There was a lot of emotion building and building. I tried my best throughout the season not to wear any of that because we're in the kitchen, we're focused and this is what I do professionally. But all of a sudden at that moment, it was like, "Wow, this is a big deal. This happened to me." So I think it was a mixture of me wanting to be happy and kind of feeling for Bryan and Kevin at the same time and not knowing what to do with any of that emotion. So it sort of did what it wanted to do. And it was good because I was about to explode anyway."
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TVGuide.com: What was your relationship like with your brother when you were younger?
Voltaggio: Bryan and I shared the same group of friends so I was constantly picking on [him]. I was always the little brother, so all of our friends, who were Bryan's age, picked on me constantly. I was the end of every joke, I was getting beat up, so I would always mouth off and talk back — not just to Bryan, but all of them. So I think I have a tendency to still do that now.
TVGuide.com: How do you feel about the viewers who found your comments to be arrogant?
Voltaggio: I'm very confident, and I have no problem saying, "I think my food is great." But I also had those comments about others peoples' stuff too. What people didn't get to see is for every arrogant and cocky thing that may have come out of my mouth, there were probably three or four nice and supportive things about the other competitors.
TVGuide.com: Your comment comparing Kevin's food to the food you cook on "your day off" really had people fired up.
Voltaggio: I didn't get to taste a lot of his cooking, so we judged a lot of the food by the way it looked. We know how our own food tastes, but in competitions we don't get a chance to taste everyone else's. So I was making my comments based on looks alone. But I've had a chance to eat Kevin's food and it's phenomenal. He's a great chef. I wouldn't have said the same things had I had a chance to actually eat it.
TVGuide.com: What do you plan to do with the prize money?
Voltaggio: I'm going start some bank accounts for my two daughters. And I'm going to invest some in growing the brand and working with Bryan. We launched VoltaggioBrothers.com, an interactive site with recipes and videos, a place where we can update what we're doing and projects we're working on next, like if we do a book together or restaurant together. We learned we can work together in the kitchen. I think we became closer in the process.
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