January 22, 2017


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The Wooden Palate x Voltaggio Brothers: Centerpiece Art

We had the best experience (although at times frantic) prototyping and making knife and fork centerpieces for the Voltaggio Brother's MGM Steakhouse in Washington DC. Michael Voltaggio originally came to us with ideas for a steak board he could serve on at his LA restaurant, Ink. We invited him to the shop, he climbed around in our stacks of wood, got inspired, gave us a few directions and said "have at it!"

We made some cool little boards, thick beautiful pieces of burned oak with a juice router and his initial engraved into them. He loved it and immediately gave us our next mission, "make me a stand for my fork and carving knife. It will be the centerpiece of the table, it needs to be stable, it needs to be cleaned easily"

We knew he liked the look of the black burned wood, so we started with that. We wanted a more natural, artistic piece that was something reminiscent of a tree wrapping around the knife and fork but we also wanted it to be edgy and original like Michael and his food. We found some beautiful pieces of live oak and cut them into little stumps, charred them and started playing from there. With different metals and ways of holding the utensils. Always keeping in mind that they would be in a restaurant, fast paced, heavy use environment. After many prototypes and a lot of metal working we came up with a beautiful and very stable piece. We showed Michael. He loved it! He put the order through to MGM and we were on our way. 

But the order never came in and we were crazy busy, up to our necks in holiday work, barely keeping up, the knife stands were forgotton. I got a call from one of Michael's people asking when the knife stands would be in DC..uh oh..We got a call from Michael, "Will I really not have my centerpieces for restaurant opening next week?...were they never ordered?" Ryan and I were on speaker phone..we looked at each other in shock. We had emailed the mgm a few times asking about the order but hadn't heard anything and we weren't sure of opening dates or maybe they had changed their minds? Ryan and I both answered at the same time "No, you'll have them for opening!"  Michael was furious with whoever had let the order fall through the cracks but so happy we said we could make it happen it time. 

But could we? There were so many parts to this little masterpiece. And we were in the thick of our busy season! This was Saturday afternoon already almost closing time, they needed to be in DC by Wednesday! That means everything done and packed by Tuesday. We asked everyone to stay late that day and to please work Sunday. Everyone generously stepped up! We immediately went to work cutting and turning and charring the little stumps. Then the metal work, bending and twisting and welding. We found a place that could do a one day turnaround on iron oxide blackening of the metal stems..It was coming together! We worked nonstop day and night from Saturday afternoon until Tuesday night Fedex shipping cutoff time. We signed and numbered every single one of them and literally sped to Fedex to drop them off.We were so proud of what we pulled off in such a short amount of time with our team. 

What an exhausting but happy day for us pulling it off and for chefs Michael and Brian Voltaggio getting their centerpieces on time!

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