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BY KURT RABIN
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
I know where the new cookbook by Bryan and Michael Voltaggio will be going. I mean, besides straight to the top of the cookbook best-seller list.
I've already dusted off a spot on my bookshelf, right next to the pristine copy of Chef Thomas Keller's "French Laundry Cookbook."
I probably won't crack the binding on "VOLT ink.," either, except for times I feel the need to drool over the pictures of the amazing-looking food inside.
You see, the brothers' handiwork has produced something more akin to an art monograph or coffee-table book than to an actual instruction manual for home cooks.
This eagerly anticipated cookbook, officially titled "VOLT ink.: Recipes, Stories, Brothers," was released, no doubt, to coincide with the holidays. And, no doubt, it will make the perfect gift for all your foodie friends and relatives.
The Voltaggios, two of the most talented chefs of their generation, are best known for their head-to-head, brother-versus-brother face-offs on Bravo's Emmy-winning "Top Chef."
Renowned restaurateur Jose Andres has called them "amazing and talented cooks, among the best I know."
That's high praise.
Andres spent years working alongside fellow Spaniard Ferran Adria, considered the best chef of all time.
The brothers use modern techniques with impeccable ingredients to create dishes that are playful, intellectually interesting and visually stunning. Their creations will also make you salivate on sight.
Like Adria, the Voltaggios deconstruct things.
For example, they'll take a standard dish, pull apart the elements, reimagine it, then restore it to something resembling the original.
In the crustacean chapter of their book, for instance, the brothers enhance not only the steamed crabs of their youth but the popular peppery seasoning they grew up with in their Maryland childhood home.
They turn the contents of that well-worn yellow can of Old Bay into a vibrantly colored sauce for their flake-coated fried soft-shell crabs.
On "Top Chef," their efforts at reconstructing food often had the brothers doing some heavy lifting, using tools that would look more at home in a hard-hat area than a kitchen environment. Meanwhile, their fellow "cheftestants" looked like they were in over their heads simply handling the pastry brushes, mixing bowls and other tools of the chef trade. At least a couple of them thought deconstructing a dish meant the opposite of constructing one: the act of sitting down and tearing into the product of their labors.
Today, the brothers couldn't be farther apart geographically, with Bryan in Frederick, Md., the chef-proprietor of VOLT restaurant, and Michael in L.A., having just opened his own long-awaited restaurant, ink. "Top Chef" revealed that temperamentally they're also worlds apart.
In fact, not since Nick Nolte and Peter Strauss brought the Jordache brothers of "Rich Man, Poor Man" to the small screen have TV viewers seen a pair of siblings so different.
However, their cooking styles are similar.
But they have also been criticized in The New York Times for falling into a group of younger chefs who are more about hair gel, tattoos and buff bodies than serious cooking.
However, the fact remains that the brothers have both served long apprenticeships in the culinary trade.
Charlie Palmer, the famed chef in whose kitchens both brothers have toiled, appeared as a judge on "Top Chef," where his admiration and affection for the siblings was manifest.
"The brothers aren't really all about competition," Palmer said. "They're more like a pair of skilled raconteurs who set out to tell the same story, but each in a very personal, very prideful way."
The new cookbook presents cuisine from 20 families of ingredients.
Pairing modernist techniques with the finest raw ingredients, the brothers twist their best food memories in wildly unexpected ways.
Kurt Rabin is a freelance writer