As a fan of the reality series Top Chef (I like beautiful food and people with tattoos cursing each other out, so sue me), I often wonder what happens to the contestants after their time on the show, especially those who get close to claiming the top prize. However, with Michael Voltaggio, who came in first during the latest Vegas-set season, I don’t have to wonder — he and his brother Bryan, who was also a Top Chef contestant and came in second this last season, have taken to the web to tell us all about it.
VoltaggioBrothers.com, which features the two dueling chef-siblings in blog and video form, didn’t have the smoothest launch — when the site came online the day after the Top Chef finale aired, it did so without a single mention of the finale’s results, instead featuring a bare bones introductory message. (It wasn’t until much later the next day that the site addressed the finale.) Given that the final episode had been pre-taped and thus both Bryan and Michael knew who had won well before its airing, this seemed like a poor bit of strategizing that kept them from capitalizing on their status as first and second place winners of the sixth season.
However, I put the site in my bookmarks and resolved to check it out later on down the line — and having done so a few months later, am pleased to report that the site has evolved nicely as a community devoted to fine cooking in both home and professional kitchens.
The credit for this is due entirely to the fact that the site’s blog draws heavily from the attached forum. By 4chan standards, it can hardly be called hopping, but there are some interesting discussions occurring. And, most importantly, cool recipes and food experiments from the forums have been pulled out into individual posts on the main blog, bylined to Bryan or Michael. It’s a great way to reward those users who are fully engaged in the conversation — the only downside was that I couldn’t see much evidence that Bryan and Michael themselves contribute that often to the forum discussion.
VoltaggioBrothers.com, the site and user experience, is an EQAL partner, and uses the lonelygirl15 creators’ Umbrella site platform for blogging and user interactivity. EQAL Co-Founder Greg Goodfried also directs and produces the videos, and confirms that the Voltaggio brothers are the creative force behind the site. Because both men are incredibly busy with their full-time work as chefs, they aren’t necessarily the sole authors of blog posts in their name; however, according to Goodfried, they do source, read and proof everything before it’s published. There’s also the occasional personal touch, such as when Bryan posted about potential dopplegangers for himself and Michael.
The other clear sign of their involvement is the video content, which isn’t necessarily regular in its production, but does offer interesting tips on things like the sous vide technique and making applesauce with a microwave and blender (I may actually go try that last one out after finishing this post, as it sounds awesome). The videos are tight, clean and engaging, shot in both Michael’s kitchen at The Langham and Bryan’s kitchen at Volt, and give fans a chance to reconnect with the two brothers not just as chefs, but as personalities.
A reality show stint is no guarantee of real success in this world — sometimes, even winning second place isn’t quite enough. But for Bryan and Michael, giving their post-Top Chef careers an interactive twist not only gives them an edge in the web space, but also makes it clear to the world that when all is said and done, it really does come down to the food for them.
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