Sibling Rivalries: Chef Brothers Building Delicious Dynasties

When siblings pursue the same career path, it gives them the unique opportunity to be both rivals and allies. Each will champion the other, even as they vie against each other to be the best. These chef brothers have all found a happy middle ground where they thrive through collaboration and by working alongside each other. To celebrate Siblings Day, here are three sets of chef brothers lighting it up in the kitchen.

Bryan Voltaggio of Volt and Michael Voltaggio of ink.
Most Americans first virtually met the Voltaggio boys when they competed on Top Chef in 2009. The show climaxed with a sibling rivalry of epic proportions as the modern-minded, molecular gastronomy loving chefs went head to head for the title. Ultimately, younger brother Michael prevailed. In a way, it didn’t matter because the appearance helped turn both of them into stars of the culinary universe. Michael opened the critically acclaimed ink. and its sister restaurant, sandwich spot ink.sack in Los Angeles. Over on the East Coast, Bryan’s Volt in Frederick, Maryland, became a must-visit destination restaurant, and he followed that success up by opening Range and Lunchbox in Chevy Chase, Maryland, as well as a number of Family Meal diners in Maryland and Virginia. The brothers have collaborated on several projects over the years, including the VOLT ink. cookbook and an as-yet-unnamed steakhouse in the MGM National Harbor casino just outside D.C. in Maryland, which is set to debut later this year. Make a reservation at Volt. Make a reservation at ink.

Chef Brothers

Handry and Piter Tjan of Sushiko
For two brothers to both decide to become chefs is rare. For them to decide to work together as co-executive chefs? Almost unheard of. But that’s exactly what Indonesian immigrants Handry and Piter Tjan have done though it didn’t happen overnight. Piter, the older brother, first headed up Sushiko’s kitchen in 2008, during which time Handry worked as his sous chef. Ultimately, both left the Japanese restaurant to sharpen their skills elsewhere. Handry put in time at Austin’s renowned Uchi, while Handry stayed in the D.C. area for gigs at Thai Pavillion and Perry’s. Finally, they reunited at Sushiko in late 2014, where they have been overseeing the kitchen as equals ever since. They have taken the omakase menu to new heights, featuring delights like kumamoto oysters and noresore (infant eels). There’s even a vegan omakase menu – yes, you read that correctly – where guests are treated to such animal-free delicacies as silky house-made tofu topped off with black seaweed “caviar” and ginger caramel dressed Brussels sprouts. Make a reservation at Sushiko.

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A Day in the Life of Zahav Chef Michael Solomonov

Chef — and recent James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist — Michael Solomonov is a busy man. He is the chef behind the CookNSolo restaurant group based in Philadelphia, which includes the beloved modern Israeli restaurant, Zahav, Percy Street Barbecue, and more.

We caught up with the chef to get a behind the scenes look at a typical Saturday.

Zahav Chef Michael Solomonov

8:00 a.m. Wake up

9:00 a.m. Saturday mornings mean swim class with my son, David. He’s a happy four-year-old and he’s a ninja in the pool.

10:00 a.m. While David’s in class, I check in with my sous chefs at Zahav. FaceTime is a game-changer, especially since we change the menu almost daily now – which I love – so a good Saturday morning rap session with the kitchen starts the day of service off right. We check out what we have in the walk-in and discuss potential moments to be had throughout the evening.

11:00 p.m. After swim class, David and I head to Spice C at 10th and Cherry for hand-drawn noodles. This place is the best at what they do. My son calls it “Buddha soup and noodles” because there’s a large Buddha statue that lives right by the door.

12:00 p.m. I drop David at home and head to Zahav. Living in Old City right near the restaurant is clutch – not only because I can easily pop home to see my family, but because Old City also happens to be my favorite neighborhood in Philadelphia.

12:15 p.m. Time to work on Dizengoff #2. We’re opening so soon inside Chelsea Market in NYC, and we’re adding new hummus toppings and salatim (Israeli-style salads) to the menu (plus Shakshuka every day, as opposed to just on Sundays in Philly). Israeli cuisine is so intrinsic to Dizengoff chef Emily’s cooking, and she’s working hard to source as many ingredients as possible as local to New York as possible. So she and I have a progress check-in (though I have complete confidence that she could rock the menu on her own).

2:30 p.m. Exercise has become incredibly important to me over the years. Zahav is located right near the Ben Franklin Bridge, so I’ll often run the bridge to get my head in the game for the night ahead.

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Study Abroad: Chefs on the Cooking Stage That Changed Their Lives

Trust the French to make interning sound fancy. In the restaurant world, a stagiaire, or stage (pronounced staahj), is when a chef temporarily works in another kitchen, usually without any compensation. Oftentimes, chefs will embark on these internships to learn how to cook a different cuisine, expand their repertoire of techniques, or get a peek behind the curtain at a revered dining institution. It’s not a glamorous chill session full of swapping anecdotes with their culinary heroes, though; it’s a lot of dull, difficult work. However, if a chef is very dedicated and a little lucky, they just might walk away with a new perspective on cooking or a skillset that could alter the course of her or his career forever. These three chefs share the story of the cooking stage that changed their lives.

Daniel Gursha of Bambara, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cooking Stage

“When I began thinking about staging somewhere, I started writing to a lot of different restaurants, but noma was always my number one. I had the cookbook, took it everywhere with me, and studied it religiously. Then head chef Matthew Orlando finally wrote me back, but I was almost too scared to open the letter. Luckily, he said, ‘We’ll take you in September 2011 until the end of the year.’ It was the best restaurant in the world at that point, so it was a dream come true.

The first day at the restaurant was amazing and overwhelming. You begin by doing grunt work and then you work your way up. Most people spend the first two weeks picking herbs and walnuts. There were some people who never left that station. I had to push to get out of there. I spent three weeks at every other station and then a month in the test kitchen alongside chef-owner Rene Redzepi. I got to sit there and taste the same things he tasted, talk to him about it, see what was going on in his mind and how he was developing dishes.

I’ve always been about trying to showcase ingredients for what they are. I want a carrot to taste like a carrot and I’m going to make that be the best carrot it can be. Going to Noma pushed this philosophy to new heights.”

Rob Weland of Garrison, Washington, D.C.

Cooking Stage

“In the early nineties, I did a yearlong stage at Pierre Orsi in Lyon, France, which was the gastronomical capital of the world back then thanks to Paul Bocuse. It was supposed to be unpaid, but, ultimately, they felt sorry for me, so they gave me a very meager wage. I was very young, so it was all very intimidating.Continue Reading

Shopping for Chefs: Trends + Numbers from the Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2016 #PBFW

Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2016 kicks off on March 31 and runs through April 3, and offers guests the chance to take part in enjoy once-in-a-lifetime tasting opportunities, cooking demonstrations, wine-paired luncheons and intimate dinners, elite wine seminars, and more. Continuing its reign as the premier food and wine event in the world, the festival will play host to 8,500 guests and feature 124 chefs, including Daniel Boulud (Daniel), Matthew Peters (Per Se), Joshua Skenes (Saison), Bryce Shuman (Betony), Stuart Brioza and Nicola Krasinkey (State Bird Provisions), Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood), and 250 distinguished winemakers. The Ment’Or Cooking Demo and Dinner alone will count 13 Michelin stars among participating chefs.

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As we look forward to this delicious event, we wondered about all the ingredients it takes to create these experiences. Enter Dorothy Maras, senior culinary event manager for both Pebble Beach Food and Wine and Los Angeles Food and Wine. Her job, in a nutshell, is to get the chefs there — and then get them whatever they want to ensure they can put out wow-worthy dishes and drink. From chef coats and credentials to itineraries and food equipment and disposables, Maras helps make it all happen. She and her team also source every ingredient, which is no small task when you’re talking about feeding almost 10,000 people. “It can be scary,” notes Maras. “Whatever you provide from growers has to be impeccable.”

This year alone, her team will stock up on a whopping seven to eight tons of food. That includes:

  • Two pallets, or 1,200 pounds, of octopus
  • 1,100 pounds of butter (900 salted, 200 unsalted, if you were wondering)
  • 480 pounds of cheese, 20% of which is of the blue or Roquefort variety
  • 300 pounds of berries
  • 300 pounds of carrots
  • 60 cases of Little Gem lettuce
  • 40 gallons of fish sauce
  • 22 cases of cauliflower

Before worrying about the quality and quantity of ingredients, however, she and her staff must be sure they understand what the ingredients are. With 35 years in the culinary industry, she’s no stranger to virtually anything, but with a roster of chefs from around the globe, there can often be language barriers. “What people call certain ingredients varies around the world. — as do measurements. Thank god for Google!,” she laughs. There are also at first-sight-misunderstandings, like the time a chef from the Caribbean put “1 kid” on a shopping list. “We all knew he meant a goat, but it was definitely funny upon first read.”

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Or when another asked for(ahemmerken, which turns out to be a spice, ICMYI. After a chuckle and striking at through their usual network of local growers and purveyors, they turned to Amazon. We typically source from within a 100-mile radius, but when a random request comes in, Maras admits, “Amazon is our friend.” Extreme requests can inspire growers to go to somewhat extreme measures. “We had a chef request cherry blossoms — only there weren’t any to be found on this coast.” She called a grower down south to make an inquiry and while he didn’t have any, he was able to clip them from a neighbor’s trees and overnight them, saving the day (or at least that chef’s dish).

As she’s been a part of the festival’s evolution over nearly a decade, Maras has had a front seat to the evolution of cooking. “It’s been fun to watch,” she says. “Everything old is new again.” Some hot trends Maras is seeing for 2016 include:

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Chefs are 86ing molecular gastronomy and too much fuss. “We’re seeing chefs utilizing a lot more heritage techniques, such as pickling and preserving.” Tweezers, too, are scarce. “Chefs are recognizing that people want food that is satisfying and substantial that doesn’t look like it was assembled with surgical tools.”Continue Reading