…A heavier focus on those who suffer from low/no income and struggle to eat or feed their kids every day. Focusing on volunteering, we can work towards helping put an end to hunger. Over 40 million Americans struggle to eat every day. It’s something I think a lot of people take for granted. Volunteering at local food banks and missions to help feed those who struggle is a great way to pay forward kindness you’ve received in a time of need.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Voltaggio, an American Chef based in Los Angeles. Michael was the winner of season 6 of Top Chef where he competed with his brother, Bryan Voltaggio
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you when you became a chef?
When I left my first apprenticeship program, my mentor looked at me at said, “One day you’re going to wake up and realize you’re not the student anymore, you’re the teacher. Are you ready for that?”
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I once decided to cook an entire prime rib for a dinner using a rotisserie grill. While the prime rib was rotating, the fat dripped into the open fire inside the grill and set the entire rotating prime rib on fire. It was entirely covered in flames and was a spinning ball of fire.
Lesson learned: don’t cook prime rib close to an open fire if it’s wrapped in its own fat.
What makes you stand out as a chef and restauranteur? Can you share a story?
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to connect the dots between real chefs and chefs that play one on tv. I work to portray that it’s okay to use entertainment to connect with a larger demographic.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? What’s your perspective on what this means for the community?
Yes, my brother and I are opening a new restaurant in early next year!
What advice would you give to people interested in becoming a chef?
Don’t do it. J I would say to focus on cooking first, because you can always learn how to do the business portion as you grow and develop as a chef. What you can’t do is go back to learn how to cook. While cooking is a trade, it’s one that requires real passion and discipline toward the craft — so I would recommend preparing for very long hours.
How do you define “Leadership”?
9’s hire 10’s. 8’s hire 7 and 6’s.
I know you are working with Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ. How has smoking impacted your life and what drove you to quit?
Smoking was not aligning with what I wanted to accomplish. I quit while training for the 300-mile bike ride with Chef’s Cycle. To exercise and get my body prepared, smoking was just not in place with that. My Mom was also diagnosed with lung cancer during that training period, and that was the reassurance I needed to confirm that quitting was the right choice.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My brother Bryan. He is the reason I’m in this career. He introduced me to my first kitchen and gave me my first job at 15.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I work with organizations like No Kid Hungry who work towards ending child hunger. I also regularly work with the LA Mission and the mission’s effort to bring the homeless off of skid row and help bring them back into the work force.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Chef” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
– Once you think you’re good, you’ll realize you know nothing.
– There’s never going to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you want to get done.
– Don’t waste time worrying about what critics say.
– Working in food is like working in medicine. There’s many different paths you can go down in this career. So work hard in identifying the one you’re most passionate about early, so you don’t waste time doing things that don’t help your development.
– You have to shower immediately after every working shift before doing anything else.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
A heavier focus on those who suffer from low/no income and struggle to eat or feed their kids every day. Focusing on volunteering, we can work towards helping put an end to hunger. Over 40 million Americans struggle to eat every day. It’s something I think a lot of people take for granted. Volunteering at local food banks and missions to help feed those who struggle is a great way to pay forward kindness you’ve received in a time of need.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Success is enjoying the view from the climb.
We often try to get to a certain goal or destination and lose sight of being present and appreciating each part of the journey. As that is really the best part.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Peter Timmins. He was the first chef that had the most impact on my life. He died at a young age, and I never got to tell him how thankful I was for what he did for me.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@mvoltaggio on Instagram & Twitter