Voltaggio hopes to serve aces at chef challenge

Celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio is not known for his tennis skills, but he will look to serve a couple of aces Monday.

Voltaggio, owner of three Frederick restaurants and runner-up on 2009’s “Top Chef: Las Vegas,” will compete in a chef challenge as part of the Citi Open tennis tournament in D.C.

“We thought it would be a good idea,” Voltaggio said. “It’s going to be something that’s going to be a little bit different.”

He plans to open a restaurant in Chevy Chase later this year, and the exposure will help, he said.

Voltaggio will compete against former BLT Steak executive chef Victor Albisu in a two-hour contest featuring mystery ingredients.

Voltaggio is used to competing, but this will be a little different.

“It’s definitely a lot of unknown because I don’t know what ingredients they will be throwing at me,” he said. “I’m given an address and told to bring my knives.”

The chefs will be tasked with completing two dishes — one meat and one seafood — with the secret ingredient for each round being kept under wraps until the competition begins.

“Hopefully it’s not like some challenges where they give us a weird package of ingredients,” Voltaggio said. “I think I’ve pretty much worked with just about everything on the planet. Anything that they will be throwing at us at this event, I’m sure I’ll be able to cover.”

Similar to “Iron Chef,” competitors will be judged on taste, creativity and visual appeal. They will have access to a limited pantry with additional ingredients.

They will also have a mixologist on hand, who will come up with cocktails to be paired with their dishes.

The chef challenge is part of the first day of the Citi Open in Washington. Formerly referred to as the Washington Star International, the tournament — celebrating its 44th year — is considered among the top on the men’s tennis circuit, according to Lily Fardshisheh, marketing and special events manager for the Citi Open.

This is the third time the event will include a chef challenge.

“We obviously capture the tennis audience, but we look to build on the niche markets,” Fardshisheh said. “It engages a new audience, like the foodies, who may not be in the market for a tennis event to go to.”

Special events can usually accommodate 300 or 400 people, she said. As of Friday night, about 250 had signed up for the chef challenge.

Tastings will be provided for those who attend the event. Tickets at www.livingsocial.com include access to the day’s tennis matches.

The tournament is to feature tennis stars James Blake, Tommy Haas, Sloane Stephens and Melanie Oudin.

In addition to the chefs, some tennis stars will be on hand to sign autographs Monday night.

Voltaggio said he respects his competition and considers Albisu a friend.

“I know we’ll have fun together … but I don’t hold back,” Voltaggio said. “I’m going to try to win and have fun at the same time.”

Voltaggio admitted Friday he knows little about tennis.

“I played other sports on tennis courts,” he said. “If I spent a lot of time doing it, I would be worse of a cook.”

Participating in the competition could change things, he said.

“Maybe I’ll become an instant fan.”

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