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Ludo Lefebvre and Michael Voltaggio want to know: What's a chef gotta do to pay his dues?

Voltaggio

L.A. chefs Ludo Lefebvre and Michael Voltaggio say they have cried and bled in the name of their profession, so the eighth paragraph of a New York Times story today about Sam Talbot -- a third-place "Top Chef" alum now opening Imperial No. 9 in the Mondrian SoHo in Manhattan -- came with a dose of disappointment. 

The story said: 

Mr. Talbot ... is among a new breed of celebrity chefs who have coasted into culinary fame, less by grueling dues-paying, and more on their telegenic brand. The group includes the brothers Brian [sic] and Michael Voltaggio, Ludo Lefebvre, Spike Mendelsohn, Sam Mason, Fabio Vivani and Marcel Vigneron.

These new schoolers tend to have tattoos (Mr. Talbot has 10), use hair gel, wear man jewelry and sport gym-buffed physiques clad in tailored flannels, designer denim and $50 T-shirts.

It was enough to drive both Lefebvre and Voltaggio to call and text the Los Angeles Times: 

"I'm very irritated," said Lefebvre, who is in the middle of shooting his Sundance Channel television series "Ludo Bites America." "I started cooking at 14 years old, left my family, worked six days a week, got my ass kicked in the kitchen 16 hours a day. Trust me, it's very hard to work under a three-star Michelin chef. I cried every night in my room when Alain Passard kicked my ass, or Guy Martin, or Pierre Gagnaire. I was head chef at l'Orangerie for six-and-a-half years, head chef at Bastide for two years, both had five Mobil stars. Seriously, what do I need to do to pay my dues?" (Meanwhile, Lefebvre says his pop-up restaurant LudoBites will return to Los Angeles in July, with an all-American theme -- a take on his travels across America for his TV show.) 

[Updated March 10, 5:58 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Lefebvre was head chef at l'Orangerie for eight years.]

Voltaggio, who won "Top Chef" in season 6 and is getting ready to open his Melrose Avenue restaurant Ink., was quick to defend his brother, Bryan. "My brother delivered pizza to get through culinary school. Both of us started at 16, that's 16-plus years of experience each. I lived in New York and made $350 a week and could only eat at work because I couldn't afford food. Nothing was ever handed to me. I have and still do work my ass off.... It's only now that chefs can make a decent wage and it comes from branding and the extra things we do outside of work (which gives us more work).... I'm truly insulted by this, I have mentally and physically given myself to my craft."

Voltaggio was previously executive chef at the Dining Room at the Langham Huntington in Pasadena and chef de cuisine of Jose Andres' Bazaar. He mentions he also worked for Charlie Palmer and staged (worked for free) at restaurants during vacations, "peeling vegetables and cutting lobsters 'til my hands bled."

Both Voltaggio and Lefebvre are indeed tattooed and inclined to wear designer jeans. "Sorry, I have tattoos," Voltaggio says. "I like them. And I wear designer jeans because I can finally afford them and don't need a suit." 

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Michael Voltaggio at Jose Andres' Bazaar. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times.

 
Comments () | Archives (10)

The comments to this entry are closed.

so who is the critics critic, seems like there needs to be!

Just have them battle with local top chefs from the city to earn respect in the city were they live in order not to be judged as a wanna be chef.

Wow, that was a cheap shot by the NYTimes. All of the people he listed have great "chef resumes" even before they appeared on shows like "Top Chef." I think it's great that they can use TV, the internet or whatever digital means they can to not only make a living at what they love to do, but make a good living at it.

If Ludo wasn't a great chef, his pop-up restaurants would have ended after one or two tries, because if the food wasn't good, no one would come. As it is, when Ludo's next pop-up returns, you can bet all the seats/times/reservations will sell out immediately, like it has since it began.

Anyone who saw Top Chef, saw what beasts the Voltaggio bros are in a kitchen! They are a force to be reckoned with! They each have a ton of knowledge, technical skills and years of experience behind them, so like Ludo Lefebvre, I hardly think they "cruised" into their celebrity chef status.

And let's face it, the Voltaggio's and Lefebvre are also good looking and have charisma on camera, and why not take advantage of that, too?


Every one can get his moment of fame ,it's life... but to stay in touch with cooking for a great period of time it take a realy good chef.

Does Voltaggio serve sour grapes on his menu?


THE NEW YORK TIMES SHOULD KNOW WHAT THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT BEFORE "REPORTING" ON A STORY LIKE THIS. THE PERSON WHO WROTE THAT STORY SHOULD BE PUT TO WORK IN A KITCHEN FOR A WEEK WITH A PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT CHEF AND THEN REPORT ON HOW EASY IT HAS BECOME. ITS HANDS DOWN THE HARDEST JOB I'VE EVER HAD AND FOR SOME REASON CONTINUE TO LOVE. THIS IS ONE OF THE RARE INSTANCES WHERE I WOULD SAY THANK GOD FOR TELEVISION, BECAUSE IT HAS CONTRIBUTED IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER TO ALLOWING COOKS TO MAKE A DECENT WAGE THESE DAYS.

So glad to see this. Cheap shot by the N.Y. Times, and anyway, what kind of jerks don't like Fabio?!

These chefs are growing up in an era where everything moves faster and it's easier to gain notoriety through several different media what are they supposed to do? Pretend they still live in the era where the only way a chef became well known was by newspaper reviews or word-of-mouth. Sounds like the NY Times reviewer needs to hop down off his high horse, do some actual research and stop regurgitating talking points he heard at his last "Soon to be Extinct Newspaper Food Critics Unite" meeting.

Such a lazy effort by the Times. It wouldn't have taken very long to actually research the backgrounds of the chefs that they lumped together - to realize that they are most certainly not all comparable in terms of work history and career path. (Also interesting that they couldn't manage to spell Bryan Voltaggio's name correctly.) Top notch!

I read the NY Times article today and was truly upset at what I read. I have eaten at both Michael Voltaggio and Ludo Lefebvre's restaurants. Truly some of the best food I have ever tasted. Voltaggio and Lefebrve are great contributors to LA's culinary scene. I cannot wait for ink. to open so I can enjoy Voltaggio's spectacular food once again.


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