Chef Michael Voltaggio stars in the new Carl’s Jr. ad, with his clothes on

Carl’s Jr. ads are known for featuring supermodels in bikinis holding a juicy burger with ketchup dripping down their perfectly shaped chins and onto their perfectly toned bodies. Kate Upton, Heidi Klum and Kim Kardashian have all been featured eating hamburgers in the commercials. And now, it’s Michael Voltaggio’s turn. 

Voltaggio, chef at the Melrose Avenue restaurants ink and ink.sack (ink was No. 15 on Jonathan Gold’s 101 best restaurants last year), and the winner of “Top Chef” Season 6, stars in the new Carl’s Jr. ad for the fast food chain’s steakhouse burger, which includes fried onion strings, A.1. sauce and blue cheese. You can watch the ad above.  

“It’s fun and this burger is delicious,” said Voltaggio in an email. “I’m not above enjoying a well-made burger. My bet is that most chefs aren’t.”

So how did one of the most lauded chefs in Los Angeles become a spokesman for a fast-food restaurant? 


“A member of my team brought the opportunity to me not too long ago,” said Voltaggio. “And my thoughts when I heard about the project: ‘Wait, I’ve reached supermodel status?' 

“Honestly, I was honored to be considered for the project. The Carl’s Jr./Hardees brand is iconic, as are their campaigns. The creative behind this campaign echoes how things are in real life.”

Unlike his predecessors, and to the detriment of some fans, Voltaggio is indeed fully-clothed in his commercial. And not only that, he’s wearing a chef’s coat. 

The 30-second spot shows Voltaggio wreck a table setting, slam down a Carl’s Jr. bag and take out the brand’s new steakhouse burger. He sits down on the table, stares the burger down, then rips out a couple of onion strings and demolishes them. Then he leans in and takes an enormous bite.


Unsurprisingly, things get messy — so Voltaggio takes a corner of the available white tablecloth, uses it to wipe his mouth, then throws it down. 

And this isn’t the first time Voltaggio has gotten messy with a Carl’s Jr. hamburger. 

“I grew up on the East Coast eating Hardee’s a lot as a kid,” said Voltaggio. “But when I was 20, visiting Northern California, I made a deal with a friend. We both got Carl’s Jr. burgers and agreed to not wipe our faces with a napkin until we were finished, regardless of how messy it was.”

When asked how often he eats fast food, Voltaggio said: “I try to eat healthy, but love a good burger. And sometimes, you have to indulge to satisfy the craving.” He went on to say “although my restaurants serve a certain kind of food, that’s not necessarily how I eat after service, and sometimes a Carl’s Jr. drive-thru fits the bill.”

So now all “Top Chef” fans have to do is decide who made the hotter commercial: Voltaggio or “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi, who starred in a commercial for the Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Six Dollar Cheeseburger  in 2009. 

I require extra napkins. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Jenn_Harris_


How to pair wine with your favorite Girl Scout cookies


Looking for a new brewpub? Six new breweries to check out now

Ben & Jerry’s cofounder Ben Cohen talks about his new Bernie Sanders ice cream

Eat your way across L.A.

Get our weekly Tasting Notes newsletter for reviews, news and more from critics Bill Addison and Patricia Escárcega.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.