If anyone knows anything about sibling rivalry, it’s the Voltaggio brothers.
The Frederick-born brothers and chefs Bryan and Michael Voltaggio’s new show “Battle of the Brothers” premiered on Discovery+ on June 17. Eight of the nation’s most promising chefs will battle it out over six episodes, for a key to one of the Voltaggio brothers’ restaurants for a guest-chef takeover.
The show begins with Bryan and Michael giving contestants a challenge to gauge their skills — from knife skills to creativity to technicality. With what they see in the kitchen, the brothers pick which chef they want on their team. Being the older brother by two years, Bryan got the first pick.
“This is how we used to do it playing kickball growing up,” Bryan said before making his first pick in the first episode.
After teams are selected, episodes work in two parts. In the first half of each episode, teams are given a challenge to cook. When the time is up, not only do the brothers and a guest judge taste their dishes, but the chefs’ teammates taste them as well. Based on the tasting, the teams vote for who they believe has the weakest plate and, therefore, up for elimination.
That’s when the brothers put on their aprons and sharpen their knives to cook alongside their mentee to try to produce the best dish to save them from the chopping block.
“They’re just so incredible,” Bryan said of the chefs featured on the show. “Their personalities are amazing, and their talent is just really inspiring.”
This isn’t the first time the brothers have found themselves pitted against each other.
Both brothers competed in season six of “Top Chef,” with Michael ultimately facing off and beating his brother in a final round to win the season. The duo aren’t strangers to the tense competition that comes with the game, but it doesn’t stop the brothers from poking fun at each other.
When Bryan was tasting a dish from a chef in Michael’s team, he began saying that he didn’t know what to say since it was so good. Michael cut him off and playfully told him, “Good, then shut up!”
In another instance, Bryan toyed with Michael his meager rabbit cuts — “Just six? That’s it?” — while Bryan and his mentee had multiple cuts and dishes of duck going on at the same time.
But at the end of the day, they are still their best supporters, Bryan said.
“I think it’s a healthy rivalry. We push each other to make each other better, so that’s where it all really comes from,” Bryan said. “We care enough about each other that we want the other to succeed.”
Bryan and Michael grew up in Frederick. Bryan got his cooking start at age 15 at the restaurant at the Holiday Inn. Michael first put on his apron in the same restaurant where Bryan was a sous chef. Michael was just a busboy. Bryan told Michael to come in the next day dressed as a cook. When Michael showed up the next day in his apron, the executive chef, unaware of the unofficial promotion, had a very particular reaction.
“The executive chef looks at me straight in my face and goes, ‘What is this, Halloween?’” Michael recalls in Episode 1 of “Battle of the Brothers.”
From there, the brothers set off their culinary careers. Bryan went on to study at The Culinary Institute of America and was mentored by chef Charlie Palmer. He traveled to cook in New York but ultimately came back to the Washington, D.C., area and opened a couple restaurants, including his flagship restaurant Volt and, more recently, Thacher&Rye on North Market Street in downtown Frederick.
Michael started at the prestigious Greenbrier Culinary Apprenticeship Program with an apprenticeship under Chef Peter Timmins. He later began cooking in various restaurants around the world until he settled on the West Coast and opened his own restaurant, Sack Sandwiches, in L.A., where he currently resides.
The two have also opened two other restaurants together: Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse and Estuary, the latter of which is temporarily closed. Their restaurants have won several James Beard, food and wine, and Michelin star awards.
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