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Top Chef‘s Michael V. Talks Sibling Rivalry

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Justin Stephens/Bravo

He’s been cooking alongside brother all season with little incident — but this week things took a heated turn for Michael and Bryan Voltaggio during a fiery outburst in the kitchen. Calling from Los Angeles, Michael, 30, spoke of the pressures of competition, what he thought of Ash‘s praise last week at Judges’ Table and which Voltaggio brother is the better chef. … -Brian Orloff

Was there extra pressure this week because you and your brother worked for guest judge Charlie Palmer?I think there are different judges that come on the show. Some of them are food personalities … and some of them are real chefs. Charlie’s one of those guys who is a real chef. Charlie came up through the trenches, worked in New York and really built his empire from behind the stove. So regardless of the fact that I worked for him, of course you’re nervous — it’s Charlie Palmer. I didn’t want to let him down. For Bryan and me, I think it was a little bit bigger of a deal.

What did you think about what Ash said about your during last week’s judging?I thought it was really nice. For me it was a huge compliment. It kind of showed that even when I was in the bottom, are like, “Wait a minute, this guy’s here to win this competition.” It was just a huge compliment. It wasn’t weird. I think it was probably a little weirder for him than it was for me because it kind of helped me a little, I think. It shed a little bit of light on a crappy situation.

Let’s talk about your brother defending you last week. What did you think?I had no idea that even happened, but I thought that was cool. Whether it had been me or anyone else in the room, you can’t sit in that room and talk about somebody’s food that you haven’t eaten or in some cases even seen. And so many sit in there and try and analyze the whole thing as opposed to sitting there and worrying about themselves. So I think that was the point Bryan was trying to get across. But I appreciated it. I thought it was cool that he stepped up for me.

Why did you get into the argument this week?As far as the spat in the kitchen, yeah, I think I was using the plastic wrap and he came over and started using it. I was kind of like, “Eff off, I’m using the plastic wrap; you have it when I’m finished.” It was awkward. I was almost like, “Why are you doing this right now? Are you trying to be tough right now?”

Have you guys talked about trying to keep the peace … – or is this just the beginning of an ongoing feud?At the end of the day we want it to be about food and cooking. It’s naturally going to seem like it’s going to be a lot about Bryan and I … – and it is because it’s real. He knows if he starts talking trash to me, I’m going to give it right back. But the difference is I’m probably not going to stop until I get my point across. Will it continue to happen? I think things will continue to escalate week by week depending on who’s there and what the challenge is because the level of nervousness gets higher as the competition progresses.

Who’s the better chef?I’m probably a better cook and he’s probably a better chef. What I mean behind that is, I’m always behind the stove, always creating. It’s always about food for me. Bryan opened his own restaurant. He knows the whole business side of it better. A chef is actually the leader of the kitchen, and I’m more of an artist. I think both of us together probably make up the perfect chef. Justin Stephens/Bravo