A new wrinkle this season will be the “Battle of the Sous Chefs,” hosted by Hugh Acheson, an online competition that will confer advantages or disadvantages to the master chefs competing on Bravo’s televised program. The winning sous, for example, will earn his or her boss immunity on the next episode of “Top Chef Masters,” while the losing sous will earn the mentor nothing but extra work.
Voltaggio brought his Volt chef de cuisine, Graeme Ritchie. “At first, my impression was that the new format would allow for us to cook side by side during the challenges, but in typical ‘Top Chef’ style, I soon learned that was not going to be the case,” he noted in a statement provided by Bravo. The new feature, he said, “truly shows the relationship between a chef and his/her sous-chef.”
In a telephone interview, I had the chance to ask Voltaggio more about his appearance on “Top Chef Masters,” which premieres July 24 on Bravo. An edited transcript is below.
What was the process for your being selected for the show?
I don’t really know. It was something that I’ve always been interested in, you know. Certainly, I’ve asked a few times if I could be a part of the cast over the last couple of years. But then they reached out to me and asked if I wanted to be a part of it, and I said, ‘Well, yeah, of course.’ I thought it would be a good opportunity to go back and show that I’ve grown a little bit as a chef and what we’ve accomplished over the last few years.
I was hoping this would be Bryan vs. Michael Voltaggio, the revenge grudge match, so you could redeem yourself.
Yeah, I know. I do that every day, sir. [He laughs.]
Did you take a different approach to “Top Chef Masters,” given your level of competition, vs. regular “Top Chef”?
Yeah, I was nervous to have all these great people around me that are established chefs and some who have been through the format before! [Laughs.] It was kind of nerve-wracking, because when I did Season 6, I walked in the door and Mike Isabella was there and my brother and everybody else. I mean, I knew there was stiff competition. I also knew I could play their game. And I knew I could cook as well as, if not better than, them. To go against people like David Burke and Douglas Keane, it’s a different level. These are chefs who are very well established, who have multiple restaurants, who are really great at what they do. It was different. I was definitely more nervous.