Michael Voltaggio won Top Chef Season 6, but he didn’t stop there. These days he’s creating inventive dishes at his Los Angeles restaurant, Ink, and now he’s working to help change his city for the better.
Voltaggio recently teamed up with Naked Juice (and other famous spokespeople, like Adrian Grenier and Common) for their Drink Good. Do Good. campaign. Every time someone posts a photo to social media holding a piece of produce and uses the hashtag #DrinkGoodDoGood, Naked Juice will donate 10 pounds of produce to the nonprofit Wholesome Wave. Wholesome Wave then will donate the produce to people living in food deserts — more than 24 million Americans who don’t have access to grocery stores or markets selling fresh fruit and veggies.
Because of his own experience as a kid, Michael understands the importance of getting kids excited about eating fruits and vegetables.
“I was the pickiest kid in the world growing up — fruits and vegetables were not part of my diet,” he told SheKnows. “As I grew up, I started to look for ways to take fruit and vegetables and make them in a way that I like. So that sort of evolved my culinary style. And I think Naked Juice does that as well.” They take fruit and vegetables that some people might not want to eat and turn them into great-tasting juice. “If I can reframe fruits and vegetables in a way I like, it’s a no-brainer, and I think Naked does that too.”
He also uses a lot of juices in the kitchen of his restaurant, Ink. “We use a lot of vegetable juices to make sauces. Instead of a roasted piece of pork with a roasted pork sauce, we do a piece of meat with a juiced turnip sauce. We’re always trying out interesting ways to run things through the juicer,” he said.
His eating style at home is a little less elaborate. His three kitchen staples? “Mayonnaise, cottage cheese and eggs.” And a typical meal? “I usually eat very simply,” he said. “Usually just scrambled eggs” or “a simple kale salad with Caesar dressing, and I’ll put Triscuits on top of it like croutons.”
Michael answered a few of our questions about his time on Season 6 of Top Chef too.
His drink of choice after a long day:
“It depends on the mood! A glass of wine, or it could be a scotch, depending on how bad the day was. I drink a lot of sport drinks because after being in the kitchen all day, you get dehydrated.”
On the friends he made on the show:
“I’m still in touch with Mike Isabella. We were friends before the show, and we’re still friends today.”
And what was it like watching Mei Lin, his former sous chef, compete on the show?
“We were rooting for her. I think the last thing I told her before she went to go do it was ‘win,’ and she did. She never let us down in the kitchen, and she didn’t let us down when she competed on Top Chef.”
The moment he knew the judges meant business:
“I still stay in touch with Tom [Colicchio] on a regular basis. I’ll never forget one thing about him. We had a relay race — and this was off camera — but some of the people were having a hard time with shucking clams, and he was like, ‘You guys, come on, are you serious?’ He grabbed a clam with one hand and a knife in the same hand, and then he just hit his hand on the table, and the clam opened right up. We were all just like, ‘This guy’s first class. He still throws down.'”
So, if he went back in time, would he compete on Top Chef and do it all again?
“Absolutely. I think it helped us reach a whole new demographic with the style of food I’m cooking at my restaurant and the style of food I was cooking as a chef.”
And as for Drink Good. Do Good.:
“It’s as simple as a selfie. Find a great piece of fruit or vegetable, take a picture of it [and use #DrinkGoodDoGood when you post it on social media], and 10 pounds of produce get donated to people in need. I mean, how many selfies do people take in one day? It’s really that simple.”