Celebrity chef Michael Voltaggio to help fans savor the Central Coast this weekend

slinn@thetribunenews.comSeptember 24, 2013 

Celebrity chef Michael Voltaggio knows a thing or two about sibling rivalry.

Best known as the winner of the Bravo cooking competition show “Top Chef” in 2009, Voltaggio won the title after beating out his brother and fellow chef Bryan Voltaggio.

“That rivalry drives us both to be better,” said Michael Voltaggio, who appears this week at Sunset Savor the Central Coast, a four-day food, wine and lifestyle festival co-sponsored by Sunset magazine and Visit San Luis Obispo County. “We feed off of each other a lot. It’s good to have someone in the industry who’s family … It’s good to have that lifeline.”

On Saturday, Voltaggio will sign copies of “VOLT ink.: Recipes, Stories, Brothers,” the 2011 cookbook he wrote with his brother, at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. He’ll also interact with fans and lead two sold-out cooking seminars at Savor’s Main Event, Saturday and Sunday at Santa Margarita Ranch.

Although Voltaggio attends food-related events all over the country, he said, “Everything about this event just sounded really, really fun … too much fun to miss.”

Voltaggio, who celebrates his 35th birthday on Sunday, has been working in the restaurant industry since age 15.

“For me, (“Top Chef”) was a means to get my own business started,” said the Maryland native, who has worked at esteemed restaurants as the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla., Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg and The Bazaar By José Andrés in Beverly Hills.

“Television is a lot of fun but it also takes up a lot of time. I don’t want to make a career out of being on TV,” said Voltaggio, who appeared in June on the Food Network show “Iron Chef America.” (His brother is currently a finalist on “Top Chef Masters.”)

Besides, he has his hands full operating two signature restaurants he opened in Los Angeles in 2011.

“I’m definitely busier than I’ve been in my life,” said the chef, who specializes in “modern Los Angeles cuisine.”

His fine-dining establishment, ink., serves up such innovative dishes as cuttlefish with melon tenderloin and jalapeño jello and beef tartare with hearts of palm and sea bean chimichurri in a low-key setting that puts the focus on the cuisine.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is offer the important parts of fine dining service and fine food,” he said, without passing extra expenses onto customers.

He compared his no-frills sandwich shop, ink.sack, to “a food truck that doesn’t move.” It sells comfortably priced, conveniently sized sandwiches piled high with house-made ingredients.

On Saturday, the chef will open a second ink.sack location at Los Angeles International Airport, one of several iconic eateries to move into the newly renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Voltaggio said the gourmet concourse is representative of a larger trend toward making top-flight cuisine available to all. Events such as Sunset Savor the Central Coast also seek to address that need, he added.

“Not everybody has the time and the money to commit to certain things, but everybody still wants to experience it,” he said. “The terms, the ingredients and the experiences – everything that was more or less exclusive to a certain demographic – is now accessible to the masses.”

If You Go

Now in its fourth year, Sunset Savor the Central Coast runs Thursday through Sunday at locations around San Luis Obispo County. Although some of the events have already sold out, tickets are still available for others.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Sunset in the Vineyard, 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday ($40 to $137)

A wine-and-food reception kicks off this event at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. Attendees can meet celebrity chefs Nathan Lyon and Michael Voltaggio before catching a concert by singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat.

The Main Event, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday ($85 for one-day pass; $150 for two-day pass, $25 seminars)

This two-day event at San Margarita Ranch features an artisan marketplace, cooking demonstrations, food and beverage tasting, live music and seminars by winemakers and celebrity chefs such as “Mexican Made Easy” host Marcela Valladolid.

Savor Run, 7 to 10 a.m. Sunday ($35 to $60)

This walk/run, which features five-kilometer and 10-kilometer routes, starts and finishes at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in San Luis Obispo. A portion of ticket sales benefits the Cancer Well Fit Program.

For information, call 800-634-1414 or visit www.savorcentralcoast.com.

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