Bravo! Top Chef


Michael Voltaggio

     I had the great pleasure of shooting, over the course of a couple of years, for a Cookbook for The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.

     Due to the resort changing ownership and the subsequent departures of most of the principal kitchen ‘players’,

alas, the book will not be published.

     The photography was split between two of us, with the ‘plate’ shots being done by Eric Adkins, with my assistance,and the ‘behind-the-scenes’, kitchen action being covered primarily by me.

     I’m not sure I have ever enjoyed an assignment more than I did this one..(And, not only because I got to eat some incredible food…!)


…Imagine this…

Meandering (total access) through a gourmet kitchen ( I mean, THIS is a $12,000 basket of “le truffe noir”)

and being able to ask, “Whatcha got?” and having it laid out before you…with a smile, no less!..?

     One of the young chefs I got to know was Michael Voltaggio who was named “Top Chef” for 2009 on the Bravo TV series of the same name.

      When I met Michael, he had returned to the Greenbrier, after graduating from their Culinary Institute and moving on to such ‘joints’ as Charlie Palmer’s,  to open the restaurant Hemisphere, an impeccably conceived eatery, though possibly not in the best geographic location for the cutting edge ‘tastings’ that he has become known for.

     The first offering that I tasted in Michael’s kitchen changed my entire perception of food and its’ preparation. His dishes inspired the feeling that I had before me a work of art. A feeling that I had to overcome before I could stand the thought of ruining it with my fork…

     But, at the first taste…no, the first scent, as the bite approached my mouth, there was no turning back.

     Many of Michael’s masterpieces are called ‘tastings’ and I have heard people say, “Why there’s not enough there to fill me up!”, but I was glad to discover that I was led to eat in a manner that I probably always should….taking my time to savor every nuance of flavor and texture. And, there WAS always enough!!

     In talking with Michael, one gets the sense that his mind is always working on taste combinations and complements…always churning for the next culinary challenge…

to translate the sights, smells and emotions of walking through a rain-soaked conifer forest into a taste…to be followed by the cool warmth of a Pacific sunset… in a flavor…

Beet cotton candy…

Trout chiccarones…

Turbot with ground peanuts and fresh Concord jelly..

On and on….

Each dish a unique sensory experience!

     If you didn’t watch the Top Chef series, Michael and his brother Bryan, were pitted against each other up until the very last episode. It was the only show that I followed last year (to the point of recording it when I couldn’t be in front of the TV. I had one episode recording while I was eating in Michael’s new venue at the Langham Resort in Pasadena. I said, “Don’t tell me who won!” and his reply was, “Oh, Don’t worry, I won’t….we had to sign a waiver that would cost me $1million dollars if I let the results get out early.” Just as well….I wanted to watch the entire series anyway) and I enjoyed every minute…maybe it didn’t hurt that I had somebody to root for.

     Since the series, Michael and Bryan have joined forces and can be found at or you can become a fan on Facebook..

     If you find yourself in Southern California, it is well worth making reservations (since the series, as you might imagine, the demand for a table has risen) and enjoying a meal that you won’t likely forget.

I hope I am afforded the opportunity, again!!….and again….


~ by rkpowers on April 30, 2010.

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