For you foodies who missed the Top Chef Season 6 winner at the OC Fair on August 4, we've posted (below) a Q&A with the chef about his work with microwaves, his love for Los Angeles (ew!) and upcoming ventures (that might involve Orange County!). Enjoy after the jump!
OC Weekly: Why did you decide to talk about “The Art of Presentation” at the OC Fair?
Michael Voltaggio: One of the things I find when I do these demos is that the larger the crowd, the worse it is. So, they're sitting in the crowd, imagining how good it tastes. My twist on doing the demo is focusing more on how we present the food, and doing a demo that is visually stimulating. So, focusing more on how I creatively put together food–as most people say, you eat with your eyes first.
I watched your videos online where you make a ton of crazy stuff with a microwave. Any new developments on that front?
I'm actually working on a whole microwave project. We've been doing a lot with the microwave — I actually made a whole breakfast, lunch and dinner in the microwave the other day.
Wow, that's kind of incredible.
Yeah, for breakfast we made an omelet, with the eggs in the microwave and everything. For lunch we made fresh made pizza dough, all the way up to the last step of crisping it in the oven. And … what else did we make that day? Man, I don't remember. We've been doing so much lately.
Will you and Brian [his brother, also a Top Chef contestant] be pursuing any joint ventures together anytime soon?
Well, Brian's on the East Coast. But we just wrote a cookbook together. As far as businesses together–because we are on different coasts, we try to keep those separate.
Do you have any plans on opening up any new businesses by yourself? Maybe in Orange County?
Haha, maybe. I never say never. I love Orange County. You never know. We'll grow as fast as we're ready to grow. I mean, Orange County isn't too far away…so I definitely see myself down there for sure.
So, you're enjoying LA life?
Yeah, I love LA. I feel like I've lived here my whole life and once you get below the obvious surface of what stereotypical LA is to everybody, it's one of the most interesting cities in the entire world. And the idea of food, fashion, and entertainment coming together as this collaborative industry–where's a better place to be? I think LA is one of the most exciting cities in the country right now.
What are some new trends that you're experimenting with? Besides the microwaves.
Well, it's definitely not a trend, but a lot of people are focusing on the idea of “where is your food coming from?” I think that's definitely a huge–not a trend, but something people are taking more and more seriously. People aren't eating meat, not because they don' want to eat meat, but because they don't trust where it's coming from. And technology is always creating new experiences and opportunities for food. It's important not to allow technology to dictate the type of food that you cook, but to use technology to make your food better.
So, are you in support of the type of cooking that Richard Blais did on Top Chef?
No, I think my cooking on the show is a lot more aggressive than what Richard did. It's just…different. A little more refined, a little more mature. Richard was using technique just for the sake of using technique. He's reach for liquid nitrogen just to make something with liquid nitrogen. Where as, we use technique like that because of knowledge of how to properly use the technique, and where it's necessary to actually use it.
It's funny–this falls in line with what you said about looking at food–when you're a viewer on the show, you're kind of awed by all the techniques someone uses to make their food. But for you, well, we're you able to taste your competitor's food? Was it obvious to you that you'd win?
You know, I did it, showing up and thinking it would be easy. But I think our particular season had five other people that had the same idea. So, there was definitely five strong competitors that I was like 'Oh, shit. There's other people here like me.' People that were there to take it seriously, and not just be on television. That's, I guess, what made our season Emmy-worthy. It became more about the cooking and the competitors and not so much the reality TV aspect of it.
Follow Michael Voltaggio's exploits on Twitter @mvoltaggio