God knows I respect the Voltaggio brothers‘ talent, not to mention the willingness of at least one of the siblings to extract himself from a safe, high-profile kitchen position to try something riskier, like opening his own restaurant.
Which is part of the reason why I could never figure out why Bryan and Michael Voltaggio were on season six of Top Chef to begin with. Neither needed the career boost, and neither really seemed the type to go work for a celebrity chef.
I mean, both of them have already done their tours of duty with celebrity chefs: Bryan worked for years with Charlie Palmer in New York, Las Vegas, and D.C. Michael earned four stars from the Los Angeles Times as chef at The Bazaar by Jose Andres. Bryan has since opened his own place, VOLT, in Frederick, while Michael has gone to the Dining Room at the Langham in Pasadena, Calif., which has earned a Michelin star.
I was thinking about these facts as the brothers stood before the judges’ table during this year’s finale of Top Chef. The Voltaggios were the last two chefs standing, a pair of prodigiously talented brothers who played up their sibling rivalry all season — hell, before the season even. For the final episode, Top Chef producers went one step further: They flew in the mothers of the final three contestants, mostly, I figured, so that we could watch the drama of Mom Voltaggio trying to console one son while congratulating the other.
At some point in this melodrama about which Voltaggio brother would top the other, I had a vague sense of un-ease, which finally coalesced into this thought today: This conclusion feels like the work of a screenwriter as much as the product of a TV reality series. I couldn’t escape the feeling that the whole season had been scripted to reach this very concluding moment between two siblings who have been snipping at each other since childhood.
I’m sure I’m wrong about that. But I’m also sure about one thing: Top Chef has pretty much lost all its charm.