Frederick residents react to 'Top Chef' finale

December 10, 2009|By Laura Vozzella | laura.vozzella@baltsun.com | Baltimore Sun reporter

Frederick had two hometown boys in the running for Top Chef, but one was clearly the favorite son.

Bryan Voltaggio, the older one with the swishy restaurant in town and the good sense to hold his tongue on TV, had nearly all of Frederick rooting for him Wednesday night in the finals of Bravo's reality cooking show.

Even family members who joined a dolled-up crowd of 300 at Volt restaurant to watch the last episode over fine cheeses, olives and wine said they were pulling for Bryan over his kid brother, Michael Voltaggio, who lives in L.A., and the third finalist, Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta.

"I think Michael's won enough," said Ruth Voltaggio, 88, the contestants' grandmother, referring to his haul in previous episodes. "He won $15,000 and he won the car."

So when the judges seemed toward the end of the show to be heaping the most praise on Bryan, the crowd in the huge tent set up in Volt's courtyard whooped and whistled.

When one of the judges said Bryan's food was the "most restrained" and "most sophisticated," the chef who'd given the brothers their start in the Frederick Holiday Inn kitchen predicted victory for Bryan.

"There you go!" chef Michael Aleprete called out. "Hands down."

Bobbie Voltaggio, an aunt pulling for Bryan, started dabbing away tears.

The judges announced, "Kevin, you are not top chef," and people screamed.

And then came the moment of truth: "Michael," interminable pause, "you are Top Chef."

Without skipping a beat, the crowd cheered for Michael.

Bryan, who's known the outcome for weeks, appeared in chef's jacket and apron about 15 minutes before the end of the show to mingle with the crowd and accept what turned out to be misplaced congratulations. As the results were broadcast, he stood with his wife, Jennifer Voltaggio, who kissed him and patted his back.

"Michael says he's in L.A., but you know what? The prize came to Frederick," Bryan told the crowd a few minutes later. "That's where he's from."

Hometown fans seemed content to claim first and second place in Top Chef, even if No. 1 won't lure any culinary tourists to town.

"This is killing me -- in the best way," said Father Leo Patalinghug, a Roman Catholic priest with a Web-based cooking show who recently took on chef Bobby Flay on the Food Network.

Said Bobbie Voltaggio: "I was so hoping it would be Bryan. ... [But] it's a Voltaggio. We're happy for Michael."

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