Michael Voltaggio

Chef, Restaurateur

Los Angeles

Taking inspiration from his older chef brother, Michael Voltaggio stepped into the kitchen when he was 15 and hasn’t looked back since. After his formal training at the prestigious Greenbrier Culinary Apprenticeship program, Voltaggio flew south to The Ritz-Carlton, Naples to learn from chef Arnaud Berthelier. Honing his culinary skills and finding his own style, Voltaggio went to the West Coast to esteemed kitchens such as Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, The Bazaar by José Andrés and The Dining Room at the Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa. But his success doesn’t stop there — in 2009, Voltaggio won Bravo TV’s hit show Top Chef and went on to open his popular West Hollywood restaurant, Ink, in 2010. In 2011, he debuted his sandwich shop, ink.sack, a concept that opened in LAX’s new international terminal in October 2013.

  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What are Michael Voltaggio’s favorite Los Angeles neighborhoods?

    I think I like Venice right now, definitely. But I also like where my restaurant is in West Hollywood. I like all the different neighborhoods. That’s the thing about L.A. that’s so cool. There’s so many different little areas and different reasons to go to all of them. It’s not like it’s one giant city where everything feels the same. You can go to the beach. You can go downtown. There’s Japantown. There are so many different places to go here now.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What is Michael Voltaggio’s favorite Los Angeles brunch spots?

    Petrossian — it’s basically a caviar shop. But they have a brunch menu where every dish has caviar on it pretty much. You hear the word “caviar” and you immediately think expensive, but it’s really well priced. So you can actually go there and eat eggs and caviar, and drink champagne. I would say it’s affordable; it’s not overly priced. They have this caviar flatbread there — it’s a flatbread with crème fraîche on it, capers, chopped egg and caviar. It’s delicious.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What are Michael Voltaggio’s favorite Los Angeles bars?

    I like The Pikey and The Varnish — probably my two favorites right now.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What are Michael Voltaggio’s favorite Los Angeles hotels?

    I like the Roosevelt just because there’s a lot of things for adults to do. They’ve got a lot of different concepts there. They’ve got The Spare Room for bowling, and then they’ve got a good restaurant. For me, it’s kind of like an adult playground hotel. And the SLS. Then there are old-school hotels up on Sunset.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What are Michael Voltaggio’s favorite things to do in Los Angeles?

    Lately, I’ve been hiking, which is something that I never really did until I moved here. I used to live by the beach, and I love surfing. I still like the fact that I can do the nerdy Hollywood thing, too. But I feel like the funny thing about L.A. is it’s such a spread-out city. You can really escape the city and feel like you’ve gotten really far away from it without really going that far. Going up in the mountains and going hiking, and finding new spots for that is probably one of the best things we’ve got going for us right now.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What are Michael Voltaggio’s favorite Los Angeles markets?

    Definitely the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays. Asai Market is a huge ethnic market, kind of an Asian grocery store — I love that one. IMP [International Marine Products], which is where we get a lot of fish from. There’s a butcher shop here called Lindy & Grundy, where they do whole-animal butchery.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    How does Michael Voltaggio order when he dines out?

    Depending on the restaurant, a lot of times, I’ll just ask them to have the chef send out whatever he wants because I like to be surprised. I usually order too much. I get a lot of food, and I try to taste as many things as I possibly can.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    Is Michael Voltaggio ever inspired by wine to create a dish?

    I’m not a huge fan of wine pairings. I like to drink wine by itself and taste the wine; and I like to the eat food by itself. I feel like sometimes when you get into this huge food-and-wine pairing, it becomes overwhelming. I get it — I feel like some wine does need food; but I don’t feel like it goes the other way around. I don’t think that food needs wine so much. So for me, it’s the experience of tasting wine by itself and tasting food by itself.

    A lot of the wine we serve in the restaurant is very light. I think champagne is probably, for me, the best thing to take with you because when you eat at a restaurant, you’re going to have a lot of different flavors.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    How does Michael Voltaggio come up with his menus?

    When we first opened, we did that, kind of, “We’re not making any changes to the food.” We tried to say all that stuff, and I still believe in that to some extent because I do believe that there’s a certain aspect of our industry that is art. But at the same time, people are coming in to eat a meal, and everyone knows what they like to eat and don’t like to eat.

    I like having options for everyone. When we write a menu, we look at the basics: Do you have meat options? Do you have vegetable options? Do you have shellfish options? Do you have not-shellfish options? Can anyone come into this restaurant and have a meal?

    So when we write our menus, I think that’s how we write them. And if they can’t read the menu and feel like the can come in and have a meal, is it easy to adapt to anyone’s needs? You know, menu mix is really important. Even if there’s two or three dishes, there’s something on there to connect with everyone.

    We’ve probably cooked for 12 kids since we’ve been open here; but we’ve got dishes that are built into the ordering system where the servers don’t have to come up to the restaurant kitchen and say, “There’s a kid at table 11, what are we going to cook for him?” They know that we have options because that kid’s as important to us as everyone else in the restaurant.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What does Michael Voltaggio think of the evolution of fine dining?

    I don’t know that there is one. I think it’s the opposite of evolution right now. I think it’s getting back to the basics. I think in a lot of cases, the evolution of food is a circle and it just keeps going around and around and around. I feel like for the past five years, we got so far away from just delicious food that now everyone is focusing on just making the food taste good. It’s not really an evolution; I don’t know how to describe what’s going on right now. I feel like people want to eat delicious food and feel like they’ve been taken care of. They don’t want to be experimented on anymore.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What does Michael Voltaggio think makes a successful restaurant?

    Lately, because of technology, the Internet, social media and all that stuff, I feel like you can pretty much experience a restaurant before you even go to it. So the only element of surprise that’s really left anymore is how good the food tastes and how well people feel they were taken care of.

    You can see the dish and you can read the menu. You can see the inside of a restaurant. You can pretty much experience the whole thing. So the only moment that we get to connect with [people] is when they put something in their mouth and it just tastes delicious, and if they feel like we were genuinely there to take care of them. It’s still in the taste of the food and the service.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What inspires Michael Voltaggio?

    I would say traveling, definitely, but lately, listening to our customers. I know it sounds really weird to say; but I think for the first part of my career, I feel like I kind of made it about me. Then as I get older, I realize that it’s not really about me; it’s about the people that we’re cooking for and also about the people that work with me. I think I’m inspired most by my employees and by my customers.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    How did Michael Voltaggio get into the culinary world?

    My brother was the sous chef of the first restaurant that I worked in. I wanted to save money to buy a car, so when I was 15, I got a job with my brother, and I’ve had the same job ever since. It was actually a Holiday Inn hotel in Frederick, Maryland. They hired me to run the food to the Sunday brunch buffet.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What is Michael Voltaggio’s favorite ingredient?

    I would say salt is probably my favorite ingredient. It’s, like, the most essential one. In fact, I think it’s the difference between a good restaurant and a bad restaurant in a lot of cases.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Michael Voltaggio answered the question: Michael Voltaggio

    What are Michael Voltaggio’s most important kitchen tools?

    A Vitamix blender. For us at work, it’s a scale because we scale all the recipes out. A good offset spatula. When I travel, that’s what I usually take with me: a knife, a spatula and a pair of tweezers — that’s everything I travel with.