Inside an 800-square-foot shop, D.C.-based social entrepreneur Ahmad Ashkar is using his Mom's falafel recipe to raise money for refugees.
Chef Bryan Voltaggio first came to fame on Bravo’s “Top Chef” series, where he and brother Michael faced off. But he was making a splash on the local restaurant scene well before his TV debut. We’ll talk with him about his local culinary roots, his upcoming D.C. restaurant opening and what holiday meals are like in the Voltaggio family.
- Bryan Voltaggio Chef and co-owner at VOLT, Family Meal, Lunchbox and RANGE; co-author of "VOLT ink.: Recipes, Stories, Brothers"
Bryan Voltaggio’s Restaurant Empire
Local restaurateur Bryan Voltaggio’s first eatery, Volt, showcases classic flavors and fresh, local and organic ingredients. Situated in historic Frederick, Md., Volt is formal but playful — the waiters wear Chuck Taylors with their suits. Diners enjoy a prix fixe four-, seven- or 21-course tasting menu of courses such as chicken mulberry with new potatoes, kale and carrot and ravioli stuffied with oyster mushrooms, ash and celery root.
Five blocks from Voltaggio’s special occasion restaurant, casual Lunchbox offers up gourmet sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts. It’s next door to the Frederick County Library, making it a convenient spot for picnic supplies and family lunches.
Also in downtown Frederick County, Family Meal is housed in a former 1960s Nissan dealership. Comfort food classics for breakfast, lunch and dinner are the theme here, ranging from house-made ice cream to buttermilk-fried chicken.
Voltaggio’s debut Washington, D.C., restaurant, RANGE, celebrates the Mid-Atlantic’s culinary heritage. The restaurant is set to open December 2012 in the Friendship Heights neighborhood.
Video: Inside The Studio
“Top Chef” finalist and local restaurateur Bryan Voltaggio described what it was like to get a phone call from the State Department’s protocol office, inviting him to serve as a culinary ambassador. “I was scared for a moment,” Voltaggio said. “I got nervous for a minute.” Voltaggio prepared a three-course meal for Japan’s prime minister and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the National Geographic Museum. He shares the honor with several local chefs, including Jose Andres and Mike Isabella.
Maryland Public Television’s new food series, “Obsessed with Everything Food,” features Bryan Voltaggio preparing food using liquid nitrogen, eating traditional Maryland foodstuffs and pillaging a farm.
The “Top Chef” finalist demonstrates the recipe and techniques he uses to make his signature white chocolate dulce de leche cheesecake, which he made for the television show’s finale.
Voltaggio reflects on his experience as a contestant on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef.”
Brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio test the pop rocks and soda myth.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Food Wednesday.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBryan Voltaggio is a self-professed food nerd whose love of fresh produce and dishes unique to the Mid-Atlantic can be traced to a childhood spent raiding the family garden and enjoying bushels of crabs fresh from the waters off the Maryland coast in his native Frederick. Bryan and brother Michael rose to national fame competing alongside and against one another on season six of Bravo's "Top Chef," where Bryan showcased his creativity with dishes that were one part finely honed technique and one part science experiment.
MR. KOJO NNAMDILocal diners can try his dishes at any of three restaurants he runs in Frederick, Maryland. And he will soon return to D.C. with a huge, literally huge, new restaurant called RANGE. Here to talk about his local roots and passion for all things culinary is Bryan Voltaggio, chef and co-owner of Volt, Family Meal and Lunchbox, all in Frederick, Md. And the soon-to-open RANGE in D.C. He and his brother Michael, also a chef, co-authored a cookbook, "Volt ink." Bryan Voltaggio, thank you very much for joining us.
MR. BRYAN VOLTAGGIOKojo, thank you very much for having me.
NNAMDIGood to have you here. 800-433-8850's the number to call if you'd like to join the conversation with Bryan Voltaggio. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Have you made a trip to Frederick that revolved around a meal at one of Bryan Voltaggio's restaurants? Give us a holler, 800-433-8850. The holiday season is upon us, Bryan. And with a couple of professional chefs in your family I'm curious to know, what is Thanksgiving like in the family Voltaggio these days?
VOLTAGGIOThanksgiving typically becomes a day where--well, we have the day off. So we let other people cook. You know, it's great.
VOLTAGGIOI mean we're always a part of the experience. I mean Michael stayed on the West coast this year. We have family in Florida, my mother's down there. So I spent a lot of time with my wife's family. And they are certainly passionate about food. And when they get together it is a potluck style Thanksgiving. You know, her aunt, you know, was responsible for the turkey this year. I contributed a few of the side dishes. And it's just a family affair. It's about sitting down, you know, at the table--
NNAMDIIn other words, you didn't do much, is what you're saying.
VOLTAGGIOExactly. And I was trying to dance around that.
NNAMDIWhat has changed or what has not changed from the days you remember growing up in Frederick, Md.?
VOLTAGGIOYou know, I think a lot has changed. Actually the growth there is extraordinary. So but there's still that huge element of agriculture that's there in Frederick, which I really love. And that's the reason why when I decided to open a restaurant I knew I was going to go back and open it in Frederick. You know I wanted to be surrounded by the ingredients. I wanted to be able to have access to the farmers.
VOLTAGGIOI have, you know, a lot of friends who believed in what we were doing at Volt and now have actually given us parcels of their land to grow product for the restaurant. And that took a long time to get their trust.
NNAMDIWas there ever a question of another career for you or was food always it?
VOLTAGGIONo. I think food was always going to be my chosen path. And it's a funny story. You know, I had other aspirations. You know, I…
VOLTAGGIOYes. I played soccer. I broke my ankle a couple times.
VOLTAGGIOTwice. And then I was able to find my new passion in the kitchen. And, you know, I think it was always there. I remember, you know, cooking with my grandfather at a very young age. I was always interested in that. There's photos of us together. And so I think that might have been the start. And as you said earlier, you know, getting out in the family garden and experiencing, you know, ingredients as they're being grown, out back of the house, was also another inspiration.
NNAMDISomething that didn't always please your mother, I understand.
VOLTAGGIONo, no. My brother and I got in a lot of trouble a lot of times.
NNAMDIAs what he's calling experiencing some other people call pilfering.
VOLTAGGIOYes. Yes. But, I mean, you're stealing from your own garden. I mean, you know, I'd think you would get away with it. So we didn't get grounded because I think, you know, my mother definitely saw something in us. I think that she saw that we were drawn to food and the dining experience. So she encouraged it. She cooked a lot.
NNAMDIAnd family is obviously very important to you. And that extends beyond your home into the workplace. What did your mentors, Charlie Palmer among them, teach you about camaraderie in the kitchen?
VOLTAGGIOWell, camaraderie is very important. I mean you're going to spend, you know, as a young chef and young cook you're going to spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. It's one of those professions that there's a lot that's going to be expected out of you. It's one of those professions that demand a lot of hours. And so camaraderie is very, very important.
VOLTAGGIOYou know, developing a passion for hospitality is key and channeling that passion into really committing the time. And so getting to know your co-workers and your staff and developing a second family is what we call it.
NNAMDIAnd one of the things you see about, I guess reality TV, that may not be as real as it seems, is that there's a popularized image of kitchen staff as a kind of rag tag bunch of weirdoes, borderline psychopaths, but your experience seems to run completely counter to that.
VOLTAGGIONo. It does. Definitely there's a few of those guys and gals along the way.
NNAMDIIn broadcasting, too.
VOLTAGGIOYeah, I’m sure. And there isn't any profession, to be honest with you, I mean, what I've experience, but, you know, those characters and, you know, a level of professionalism in the kitchen that brings all of these different experiences together, though, too. I mean, I don't know. I guess to explain it is that, you know, there's a lot of different characters in the kitchen that have many differing experienced that bring your culinary backgrounds together and it's really inspirational to work together as a team.
NNAMDIAnd when you're working together as a team, how important is it to cultivate that feeling of look, we are basically a kind of family here?
VOLTAGGIORight. No. It's very important. And, you know, you have to look after one another. I mean, it's a demanding profession. You know, the key thing is, is that obviously, there's stations. I mean there's a science to how the kitchen is segregated, in the way there's a meat station, a fish station, there's a pasta station, there's, you know, a pastry. On the menu you order a first course. You order a second course. You order a third course.
VOLTAGGIOWell, those stations are getting the majority of the bulk of the orders at one time. So you have to go over and assist and work together as a team and not say, okay, this is my station. I'm not responsible for what you have to do. And so sometimes there's a lot of competition because, you know, some characters will say, well, I'm not going to do all of your work for you. And so being a chef, it's being the coach, the guy or gal who's trying to make everybody work together as a team. So instilling that environment can become difficult, but yet, it's very important.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're talking with Bryan Voltaggio, chef and co-owner of Volt, Family Meal and Lunchbox in Frederick, Md. And the soon-to-be-open RANGE here in the district. He and his brother Michael, also a chef, co-authored a cookbook, "Volt ink." On to the telephones, here is Daphne in Washington, D.C. Daphne, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
DAPHNEHi, Bryan. I just wanted to let you know I've definitely experienced your food a couple of times and it's been fantastic. In fact, I love it so much that when I moved from Seattle, my best friend happened to be on the show with you, she left her place. And then when I drove across the country I had to stop off in Frederick to go specifically to your restaurant as I was entering my new home. And it was just surreal. And I just want to thanks for it. Like that was just a great way to welcome myself home.
VOLTAGGIOThank you, Daphne. That's great. I'm glad you had a chance to experience the restaurants. And so who was your friend in Seattle?
VOLTAGGIOOh, it was Robin. Oh, wow, that's great.
NNAMDISmall world we live in, Daphne.
VOLTAGGIOIt is a small world.
NNAMDIDaphne, thank you very much for your call.
VOLTAGGIOWell, thank you.
NNAMDIAnd I’m glad you brought up Frederick, Daphne, because your roots in Frederick, Bryan, run deep. It's where you run not one, not two, but three restaurants.
NNAMDIVolt, Family Meal, Lunchbox. For those who have not made that trip, what's the overall atmosphere in town and how do each of your restaurants there capture that atmosphere in Frederick in their own way?
VOLTAGGIOYou know, Volt was the first restaurant to open. We opened it four and a half years ago. And Volt, I think, changed a little bit of the dining scene in Frederick. I mean, I don't call it a dining scene, it's a small town. You know, but there's a lot of great restaurants there. And so I think we brought some fresh ideas. And we've reached out into the Mid-Atlantic region for our ingredients. We definitely became a part of the community.
VOLTAGGIOI definitely have to say that "Top Chef," had the community of Frederick behind us, too. And so that was a really important thing that happened for us. But, you know, also, I mean, Volt is very much a celebratory restaurant. I mean so it's not your everyday restaurant. It is a multi-course menu, there's Table 21, which is a 21-course menu. It's a huge commitment of time, but it's fun, it's exciting. There's new flavor ideas. There's great combinations of textures and so it's an experience.
VOLTAGGIOFamily Meal we opened because we believed in the fact that, you know, families should get together around the table and share food, friends and family. And so we wanted to have a restaurant that was going to embrace that and provide that experience. And so we opened that restaurant and developed food that people want to eat, you know. Not that you don't eat the food at Volt. The food at Volt is extremely exciting. I love to eat the food at Volt. I can't eat the food at Volt every day.
VOLTAGGIOYou know, I wanted to create a restaurant where I could go in everyday and have a really great meatloaf or have some great fried chicken or have a chicken pot pie. I mean things that are comforting and things that I remember from my childhood, too. Lunchbox was the answer to, you families and men and women on the go. I mean, people that are business owners in downtown Frederick who needed a quick bite to eat for lunch. Or if you're on your way to the library, it's right there, a stop off with your children. It was something that was wholesome. They used really great ingredients, but you could expect a quick service.
NNAMDIVolt is housed in a 19th century Brownstone mansion. It's formal. Whose idea were the Chuck Taylors?
VOLTAGGIOWe wanted to lighten the experience. We didn't want it to feel stiff, you know. We wanted Volt to be fun. And, you know, when a server comes up and they're dressed in a nice suit I think then it becomes another expectation where as a diner you don't feel as comfortable. And so when you look down and you see that they're wearing Chuck Taylors you kind of laugh, you know. It breaks the ice. It softens the blow of Volt being, you know, a celebratory restaurant. It makes it fun again.
NNAMDIYou mentioned the Mid-Atlantic. You're known for building strong relationships with local farmers and purveyors. What appeals to you about the food of the Mid-Atlantic and the people who grow or make it?
VOLTAGGIOWell, no I believe the Mid-Atlantic has a lot to offer. It has one of the longest growing seasons in the country. You know, there's a great history of farming in, you know, both the shore, but also in the interior communities of Frederick and western Maryland and West Virginia. There's also a lot of great wild products, you know, ramps. If you think about West Virginia, I mean, ramps are extremely abundant in the spring seasons. And we always look forward to them. Morels and forging is a big part of the Mid-Atlantic region, too.
VOLTAGGIOAnd there's just so much to offer in the area. There's ranchers and poultry farmers and Amish country. There's so many different, great, you know, products that are coming from there. The corn on the Eastern Shore is beautiful. I mean, and the waters have so much to offer, too. I mean, when you think about Chesapeake shellfish, I mean, it's some of the most amazing shellfish on the planet.
NNAMDIWell, we'll see those relationships quite literally on display on your upcoming return to D.C. You're about to open a restaurant that's been likened to a modern-day gill hall. Please explain what we'll be finding at RANGE.
VOLTAGGIOYeah, RANGE, I think, is a culmination of all of my experiences of cooking as chef. I mean, not only in the kitchen, but also in my travels. And in places I've been where, you know, I've experienced, you know, open market format cooking and, you know, things where you can actually touch and see and smell. And, you know, Table 21 was very much about that at Volt. Interacting with the cooks and the chefs, I think, is an important part of the dining experience now.
VOLTAGGIOAnd so RANGE has nine different little kitchens that go around a 55-seat counter. And so there's a bakery, there's a, you know, a (word?) meaning there's a chocolatier actually making, you know, chocolates and candies and things right in front of the guests. There's a pasta station where we're going to be actually extruding pastas, making rolled and filled pastas and actually cooking them right in front of the guests. A wood oven, we're going to be doing pizzas and things that are, you know, really, really homey.
VOLTAGGIOAnd it's going to make it feel -- and smells in there are going to be amazing. We're going to have a (word?). We'll be actually making all of our own charcuterie. RANGE is going to be a celebration also of utilizing the whole product. You know, utilizing the whole animal from nose to tail.
NNAMDIYeah, we had a show with butchers here recently in which that came up a lot.
VOLTAGGIOYeah -- no, it did. And, you know, and I worked at a steakhouse for a long time. I opened Charlie Palmer's Steak in D.C., you know.
VOLTAGGIOBut I was also at Oreo in New York. And so I had, you know, Charlie's food in its most progressive form. I had it in its most comforting form, you know, as a chef working for him. And I think this is also blending that together. It's taking modern and classic technique and bridging it, and also utilizing the whole product. I don't want to just use the loin cuts. I want to use the cuts that take a lot of time, you know, the legs and the shoulders and the things that require braising and, you know, the...
VOLTAGGIOYou know, just imagine walking in there in the fall and winter season and all the sweet spices that are going to be going on and all the braises and, you know, the fats and, you know, all the things that make food delicious. It's just going to be a restaurant about delicious food.
NNAMDIAnd you get a front seat to watch all the masters at work.
VOLTAGGIOYou do, you do.
NNAMDIHere is Randy in Frederick, MD. Randy, your turn.
RANDYHey, Kojo, thank you for having me on. I was really excited because normally I pop on your show and love listening to your show. And then I hear Bryan Voltaggio on so it's a doubleheader for me today or double play. So just wanted to simply say that my wife and I have had an opportunity to dine at Volt on multiple occasions and it is a wonderful restaurant. And for folks who haven't made the trip up to Frederick to eat there or Family Meal really, really should make the trip out. It's a great restaurant. And Bryan, we miss you on our soccer team, man. We really could use you back.
VOLTAGGIOThank you, Randy.
NNAMDIRandy, how good was he? Randy?
RANDYYes, I'm sorry.
NNAMDIHow good of a soccer player is Bryan?
RANDYOh, he's pretty good. Well, much better than I am. I just learned to play, but it's an old man's soccer team, but he's very good. But we could really use him back.
VOLTAGGIOWe get RANGE open and then we'll see if I can get back on the team.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Randy. We're going to take a short break but you can still call us, 800-433-8850. Our guest is Bryan Voltaggio, chef and co-owner of Volt, Family Meal and Lunchbox in Frederick, Md. And the soon-to-be-open RANGE here in the District of Columbia. How important was coming together for meals in your family growing up? If you're a chef what inspired you to pursue that career, 800-433-8850? I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Bryan Voltaggio, chef and co-owner of Volt, Family Meal and Lunchbox in Frederick, Md. And the soon-to-open RANGE in the District of Columbia. He and his brother Michael, also a chef, coauthored a cookbook, "Volt ink," and I'm looking at the inscription in my own cookbook, which is why I'm laughing, it's okay to play with your food?
VOLTAGGIOIt certainly is and it's encouraged in our family. You know, growing up, I mean, you're always told by parents for the most part, don't play with your food. Don't play with your food. But if you think some of the best things that came to the table were because you played with the food. And so, you know, I thoroughly encourage that in my own family.
VOLTAGGIOAnd, you know, cooking together is also a really, really important thing. We're talking about family and, you know, I try to cook with my children as much as I can. You know, I love to cook with my son. He won't eat pasta but he loves to make pasta. So, you know, it's also if you're, you know, raising children that might not like foods, it's also -- you know, or some foods. You know, my son right now won't eat green vegetables. So what we do is we...
NNAMDIThat was me when I was his age, yeah.
VOLTAGGIO...we put green vegetables into the kitchen and we work with them. And so eventually you'll see him go off to the side and he'll put something into his mouth . And, you know, I'll look and he'll smirk and he'll spit it out. But at least he's trying it. At least he's trying it. And so, again, it's so important to cook with your family.
NNAMDIHe'll come around. We got a Tweet from Amanda who says, "How do you feel about kids and food? Are you interested in helping improve school lunch programs? Can't wait for RANGE," says Amanda.
VOLTAGGIOWell, thank you, Amanda and absolutely, you know, I'm very much a huge supporter of Share Strength. And, you know, I actually helped pass some legislation. Hopefully with the State of Maryland in keeping and retaining some of the dollars for their breakfast school program. And I believe it's really, really important that we get our kids off to the right start. Food is essential part of the school experience and we need support as much as we can.
NNAMDIYou've worked in D.C. before, you mentioned that. What made you decide it was time to come back?
VOLTAGGIOYou know, I miss D.C. You know, there's a huge camaraderie of chefs in the District and, you know, I missed working, you know, with them. And, you know, I always loved this area. You know, I still -- I chose the location though because I wanted to be close to Maryland. I want to be close to Frederick. I mean, as we are thinking about expanding and opening new restaurants it's really critical I can be a part of it every day, you know, or at least a majority of the time.
VOLTAGGIOYou know, now the location is great. I can shoot down 270 and...
NNAMDIRight up the street from here.
VOLTAGGIO...right up the street. And so it was truly important if I was going to come back that it was going to be close. And I found a great location to do that.
NNAMDIThe District's food scene has changed a bit since you were here last. What do you think is fueling it and how well does it hold up to the inevitable comparisons with New York?
VOLTAGGIOI knew that question was going to come.
NNAMDIYou knew it was coming, huh?
VOLTAGGIOYes. Absolutely food in D.C. has changed. I mean, I moved back down here in 2003 and opened Charlie Palmer Steak. You know, Charlie's always been a -- has done a great job of pioneering cities, meaning as a chef. I mean, there's other chefs that have come in since of course. I mean, Wolfgang Puck brought Source and, you know, several others have moved to the area.
VOLTAGGIOThere's also this really great talent that was already here. And, you know, D.C. is an emerging food scene. There's a great food culture here. There's a lot of resources. Like I said, the Mid-Atlantic region is a great bed of agriculture and shell fish and ranchers and poultry. And so, you know, it's a perfect -- the perfect mix of what you need to have for a really great food scene. A perfect mix of -- and hungry people.
VOLTAGGIOI mean people are not only hungry but they're hungry for new experiences and new ideas. And so it's really important that we're listening to our guests and they're asking for it.
NNAMDIWell, hungry is an understatement because our lines are filled with people wanting to hunger for conversation with you. So if you're trying to get through right now, send email to email@example.com. Send us a Tweet at kojoshow or go to our website kojoshow.org and ask Bryan a question or make a comment there. I'll shut up and go to the phones where Judith in Silver Spring, Md. awaits us. Judith, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JUDITHHi there. I have a nuts and bolts question.
JUDITHWould you be willing to discuss the finances that it took or is taking to get this RANGE open? Do you have partners? Do you have financial investors? Are you...
NNAMDIWhat does it take to put a package like this together? You don't have to mention numbers.
VOLTAGGIOYeah, not a problem. It does take -- it's takes a huge commitment and a lot of partners to do this. You know, there's a misconception that chefs have a lot of money. So no, I'm -- you know, they always say you're as good as your team. And so I have a great team behind me, Clarion Partners who is renovating the Chevy Chase Pavilion, the majority flare in making this happen. We met about two years ago to work on this project. It is that long in the making.
VOLTAGGIOAs well, I have partners that have been, you know, longtime supporters, had started with Volt. My business partner, Hilda Staples, you know, is a huge part of our successes and what we've done together. There's other partners that are involved in Volt and Family Meal who also are investing into this restaurant. So, yes, it does take a huge commitment. There's a lot of moving parts, but it's a beautiful restaurant. It's really come together really well. We're very excited.
NNAMDIJudith, thank you very much for your call. We move on to Jacqueline in Washington, D.C. Jacqueline, your turn.
JACQUELINEHello, Bryan. A friend and I have, for a number of years, been going to Frederick to antique and that was the purpose for going until we discovered your restaurant. And we started having -- going there primarily for lunch and then going antiquing. My question is, are you ever going to resume lunch service at Volt?
VOLTAGGIOWell, we have lunch on the weekends so it's still open for service on Saturdays and Sundays. And I would assume that you probably tried to beat the crowds and that's why you're coming up during the week. So I do apologize. You know, the answer to that was Family Meal though too because we did close down the lunch service. We have Family Meal open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, you know, that is an option. Opening Volt for lunch, again, isn't in our plans right now in the near future, but you never know. Things can change.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Jacqueline. On now to Sheila in Mount Airy, Md. Sheila, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SHEILAHi, Kojo. Thank you so much. I love your show. Bryan, I just wanted to thank you so much for having a restaurant like Volt in a place like Frederick which is kind of far out from, you know, the really important and famous restaurants in the D.C. area. Because Frederick downtown has so many great restaurants. It's a really -- kind of a sooty place for those of us out here in the counties -- I mean, Carroll County.
SHEILAAnd I've been to (unintelligible) Washington where they have the kitchen table -- the table for customers to be able to watch what goes on. And I think that's spectacular. And I know you have that too and I think it's an amazing feature that you guys offer. And the last thing, I think...
NNAMDIIt looks like you have it times nine at RANGE, but go ahead, please.
SHEILAAnd -- but I wanted to say that, you know, Mount Airy has a cute little downtown and we would love to have you start a restaurant down here too.
VOLTAGGIOYou would? Oh, well, thank you.
SHEILALove it. Love it, love it.
VOLTAGGIOThank you very much.
SHEILAAll right. Well, thank you so much for what you brought to Frederick.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Sheila. After spending time in D.C. you helped to foster a flourishing food scene in Frederick that Sheila just described. What other establishments, shops, restaurants out that way would -- should be on our radar?
VOLTAGGIOOh, there's plenty. There's a lot that's going on. Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium just opened a few doors down. And she's done a really great job of procuring olive oils and different vinegars from all over the world. Let's see, there's Tasting Room which is a really great place for cocktails. There is Black Hog Barbeque which Mike Tauraso has done a really good job with. It's a place that I find myself pretty often on my days off.
VOLTAGGIOAnd then there's a lot of great clothing stores too. Silk and Burlap and Velvet Lounge. A great friend April has a really great store -- women's store there and she does -- that's where I do a lot of my Christmas shopping for my wife too. But there's so much to see and do there. I mean there's also some vineyards that you can go and check out. I mean, Elk Run is there. There's also Black Ankle. It's in the county. So a lot of fun things that have to do with food and wine in Frederick.
NNAMDIThen I can tell Zeke that he shouldn't worry because here's what Zeke Tweeted. "Please ask Bryan not to forsake his eateries in Frederick for the bright lights of the big city. Signed a Frederick, Md. resident."
VOLTAGGIOI ensure you I won't. And so, you know, it is -- that was a huge part of the planning that had to do with RANGE. Like I said, the location was key. I could not put myself all the way in downtown or further away because I wanted to still have access. I still want to be -- you know, I live in Urbana so I don't live in downtown. So I'm kind of calling it halfway in between.
NNAMDI270 is in striking distance from RANGE. Here is Honor in Arlington, Va. Honor, your turn.
HONORHi. This is a great timely opportunity for me because my son just wrote a little essay for his English class about his big dream for the future, which turned out that he would love to be a professional chef and someday open his own restaurant. And I knew he loved to cook but I didn't know how serious he was about it. So other then cooking with him and letting him cook for the family and that kind of thing around the house, do you have any suggestions of things that he could do or I could get him involved in in this area that would really encourage and support his, you know, growing in this ambition?
NNAMDIHonor, how old is he right now?
HONORHe's almost 14. He'll be 14 in March.
NNAMDIOkay. Here's Bryan.
VOLTAGGIOYeah, absolutely. There's many things you could do, you know, during the summer months. At 14, I'm trying to remember what he's actually able to do, but...
HONORWell, he's taken two classes actually at Sur la Table and they loved him so much that they -- every class he took they made him their assistant and said, oh you really have skills.
VOLTAGGIOThat's great but there's also some other options. I mean, there's a lot of chefs that are in the area, including myself, that believe in, you know, someone who is pursuing this career they should spend some time in a professional kitchen. Meaning, if they're going to come in and actually do as we call a stage or a trail where you come in and you actually experience the kitchen. Maybe at 14 not really getting involved in too much, you know, you can't really pick up a knife at that age.
VOLTAGGIOBut working with cleaning vegetables, peeling vegetables and watching the chefs and how they interact. And what the kitchen experience is like can either change minds or get them more inspired to -- and build that passion towards food.
HONOROh, he would love that. How do I -- how would I do that?
VOLTAGGIOWell, I mean, for us, I mean, you just go to Voltrestaurant.com and you could go to our info page and send us an email. And we set up these opportunities on a regular basis. And then it's well...
HONOROh my god, I never heard...
VOLTAGGIO...you know, there's many other chefs in the area that also would be very inviting, you know, for something like this.
HONOROh, my god. And I was thinking I couldn't wait to take him to RANGE. But, I mean, this would be even better. But we'd go to RANGE too but...
NNAMDIHonor, thank you very much for your call and good luck to your son.
HONORThank you so much.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. We're talking with Bryan Voltaggio. He's chef and co-owner of Volt, Family Meal and LunchBox in Frederick, Md. And he'll soon be opening RANGE here in D.C. He and his brother Michael, also a chef, co-authored a cookbook. It's called "Volt ink." 800-433-8850. Have you tried using modern cooking techniques at home? Tell us how it went. 800-433-8850. Speaking of culinary skills, the U.S. State Department recently rolled out a culinary ambassador program and you're among the chef they chose. How did you get involved in that?
VOLTAGGIOI was shocked when they offered that. It was a new and interesting program and I'm glad I'm a part of it. It's an amazing experience. They -- I had this phone call. I remember I was in New York City and I was sitting at Bouchon Bakery right at Rockefeller Center with my wife having coffee and a pastry. We just got done -- we were up there for something else and the phone rings. And it's the Protocol office from the State Department.
VOLTAGGIOThey said, we want to speak with Bryan Voltaggio. I was scared for a moment. I got nervous for a minute and so they offered that I was going to cook for the Prime Minister of Japan and Secretary Clinton at an event at National Geographic. And so my staff at Volt and I went down on a Monday and prepared this three-course meal. We put our all into it and I -- we made the timeline. The timeline was important too. The strict schedules of their days must be -- they're so rigorous.
VOLTAGGIOAnd so I think it was that experience that earned me the opportunity to be a part of this team.
NNAMDIWhy do you want to do it?
VOLTAGGIOAnd I wanted to do it. I'm so glad to have this opportunity. Actually they've already reached out. Unfortunately I'm not fluent in Spanish but there's an opportunity that was going to be in South America that I had to pass because I couldn't give a demonstration in Spanish. But I'm going to brush up on my skills.
VOLTAGGIOAnd the thing is, you know, we're also in the middle of opening a restaurant. But there is -- it's beyond what we've already done. It's not -- it is going to be an ongoing program. And it's something I believe is really important in the culinary heritage of America. And I'm glad that people are reaching out and helping to spread and also I think, you know, showcase our culinary history and show how important it is to us.
NNAMDIOther local participants include fellow top chef Mike Isabella, Duff Goldman based in Baltimore and Art Smith and some guy named Jose Andres.
VOLTAGGIOThat's not just some guy.
NNAMDII wonder who he is, Jose Andres?
VOLTAGGIOJose Andres is one of the biggest...
NNAMDIJose's a frequent guest on this show.
VOLTAGGIOYes. Yes, I know he is. I know he is. And, you know, he is such an incredible chef. I mean, I just -- I watched what he did also during -- you know, working with Red Cross in Hurricane Sandy. And, you know, he just gives back so much to the community. He's an amazing man. He's a mentor.
NNAMDIOh, we talked with him about his work in Haiti. He's...
VOLTAGGIOYes. That too.
NNAMDI...appears ubiquitous sometimes. The man is everywhere.
NNAMDIHere is Gita in Washington DC. Gita, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GITAHi, thanks for taking my call. Brian, congratulations on your success. I had a follow-up question that the woman about her son asked about the cost of culinary school. The cost of it, and also the usefulness of training. I say this because I actually run an underground restaurant in Washington DC, and of the reasons that I chose to go that route is because I'm family trained by my mother mainly, and I didn't want to have a restaurant with the costs and be open, you know, every day of the week. And so I was curious what you think about alternative ways of opening a restaurant and about culinary school.
VOLTAGGIOThat's a very interesting concept. I'd love to hear actually more about what you're doing.
NNAMDIYeah. I don't know exactly what an underground restaurant is.
VOLTAGGIOYeah. No. That's -- no. But I believe I understand the idea of it, and so, you know, if you're passionate about food and you want to share that food with people, I mean, if you just think about the food truck experience and other things that are happening now where, you know, there's people who do really great things, but they don't have the means to have the entire operation, nor want to, you know, nor want to have the service aspect or something like that.
VOLTAGGIOMeaning waiters and the whole nine yards. So, I mean, I would be -- I'm very supportive of that, and I think that's a great, I mean, you know, hospitality comes in many forms, you know, whether you have a restaurant or not, it's about sharing food and the experience. And so whatever it takes for you to do that, you should just follow your passion.
NNAMDIGita, how's it been working out for you so far?
GITAIt's been great, and I -- I'll tell you a little about what I do. So it's called Hash Supper Club, and I'm a cook. I'm not a trained chef, but I'm a storyteller.
VOLTAGGIOWe're all cooks. We're all cooks.
GITAWe're all cooks, this is true. This is true. And thanks to my mother, I'm a much better cook. But I tell this story of a region of India where I'm from, which is (word?) which is on the west coast, and then (word?) which is this tiny religion that has a culinary history that no one's ever heard of. And so that was my reason for cooking was actually in service of the story, so it's a bit different.
GITABut my reason for doing it in my home and underground just means I can't tell you the location on the air.
VOLTAGGIOBut you can after we get off the air, because I'm intrigued and I want to come.
NNAMDIYeah. We're gonna put you on hold and -- we're gonna put you on hold and get your number when you're through.
GITAAbsolutely. I'd love to talk to you off the air. But one of the logistical reasons is that that cost of culinary school, and sometimes the thanklessness, you know, if you don't become a celebrity, if you get on television (unintelligible) , you know, pay back a loan and all of those kinds of things, and I -- I was willing to take the risk starting something small and seeing where it went, and then seeing where my passion lies in...
GITA...the (unintelligible) or in the storytelling, and for me it really is in the storytelling.
NNAMDIMakes absolute sense, Gita, but you phone is also breaking up and we've got to go to a break, so I'm going to put you on hold so that we can get your information so that if Brian or frankly, this show, would like to get back in touch with you, we'll be able to do that. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk with Brian Voltaggio more about "Volt ink," the cookbook he has co-authored with his brother, Michael.
NNAMDIBut the lines are busy, so if you'd like to get through, send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Food Wednesday. Our guest is Brian Voltaggio, chef and co-owner of Volt, Family Meal, and Lunchbox in Frederick, Md., and he'll soon be opening up RANGE here in the District of Columbia. He and his brother Michael, also a chef, co-authored a cookbook. It's called "Volt ink." But speaking of this book, if I do not happen to have a thermal immersion circulator, or easy access to liquid nitrogen, which recipes in this book should I start with before working my way up to the ones that call for those things?
VOLTAGGIOThat's a very good question, and "Volt ink" is a definitely a period of where Michael and I were in our professional careers, and also our experiences, and it was very much about a book that's sharing what that was. And so -- and it was difficult to try to figure out how we're going to categorize this too, because we want to have an authentic book. We want to have a book that was going to be -- I promise you I'll answer your question, but "Volt ink" was trying to categorize recipes that Michael and I had in our repertoire and they were first going to be under ingredients.
VOLTAGGIOAnd then we had to pull the microscope out and say, okay, let's do it under family of ingredients because we didn't want to -- if we were going to pick asparagus for example, if I didn't have two asparagus recipes, I didn't want to have to make them up for the book.
VOLTAGGIOSo what we did was, we were able to reach down into our repertoire and put something in together that was very authentic. Things that we have already cooked before. We didn't have to make it up to fill pages. So then looking at that, there are dishes that yes, they can be difficult to execute at home, but there's many different recipes or within a recipe that create a dish that are very useful. Take my parsnip dish.
VOLTAGGIOThat's, you know, who's going to go home and make parsnip bark and all of these different preparations of parsnips? But the glazed parsnips are the perfect side dish to a piece of roasted meat. And so you take that recipe and you just multiply it out and make it a larger serving portion for a family of four or six, and you have a building block. You have a piece of the recipe that you can create its own dish from.
VOLTAGGIOAnd there are four techniques and inspiration and a place to find information that you can use in your own kitchen. There is, however, a coffee cake recipe, and, you know, we worked with Williams Sonoma also on this book. They were a huge supporter when we put together this book. And so they hosted book signings for Michael and I, and they choose a recipe, because you know how they always cook in the stores?
VOLTAGGIOYou go in an it always smells really good. And so they chose my coffee cake. And the great thing about this book was, is that no matter what city we went into from coast to coast, whoever made that coffee cake it was always the same, and I never talked to them. And my brother was floored too.
VOLTAGGIOHe's like, I guess -- he's like that recipe actually works.
NNAMDIHe thought you were involved in a conspiracy.
VOLTAGGIOWe spent a lot of time working on this book, you know. Alex Talbot from Ideas in Food, he has a blog and he also has a book now and he another book coming out. He worked with us, and he made sure that we tested these recipes so that they would work and, you know, restaurant recipes that we boiled down into a four or six portion size, and we tested and tested and tested.
VOLTAGGIOWe measured the salt to the point if it was a product that had to be cooked down, that it would be the perfect finished dish. And so it took us a long time to go through that. It was a huge commitment, and we're very proud of what we did.
NNAMDIAnd it's a big, thick, very attractive book. It's called "Volt ink," by the brothers Brian and Michael Voltaggio. On now to David in Foggy Bottom here in DC. David, your turn.
DAVIDHi. Two questions, one for the guest, and one for the host. For the guest, I'd just like to suggest that you contact the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington so your forthcoming restaurant can have orthodox Jewish people that keep the Jewish dietary laws as attendees. As for the host, I'd like to know how to contact, online as well as by mail, to receive transcripts of previous shows.
NNAMDIGo to our website, kojoshow.org, and follow the links, and you will find out exactly how to get transcripts of previous shows. They are on the site itself at kojoshow.org.
VOLTAGGIOAnd thank you.
DAVIDAnd David, thank you very much for your call. We move on now to Dina in Great Falls, Va. Hi, Dina.
DINAHi. I'm thrilled to be on, and thanks for having him on the program. I was wondering real quick, my son was involved with a culinary program at Stratford University where they're actually alongside the regular culinary students that are adult, and they -- and he went through a summer program with something called Kids in the Kitchen. It was really -- it wasn't like doing your happy face pizzas or things like that.
DINAYou actually end up with a chef's kit afterward, and you're working alongside. You're making French breads and quiches and, you know, ragus and all kinds of things. Anyway, that's to give for that woman. Also, this was in the Tyson's Corner area where I took him for that Stratford program.
DINAAnd is Volt open for lunch? I heard rumors that they don't have lunch at the restaurant.
VOLTAGGIOWell, first, thank you for sharing that information about the culinary program that your child went to, because that is great information. I did not know about that, and it's fun to see that people are doing that. And also, Volt is open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. We did close for lunch during the week, but the answer to that was Family Meal. And, you know, we found that people nowadays don't have the time to sit down to a multicourse lunch and that long service experience that we provide at Volt, which can be experienced in a leisurely brunch or, you know, Saturday afternoon, or Sunday morning. However, Family Meal, which is more quick service and really great, tasty food, is a great answer to lunch in Frederick.
NNAMDIDina, thank you very much for your call. We got an email from Chris who says, "Please ask Brian what he thinks of the current cooking show format with competition with ingredients many of us are not familiar with. My mother was inspired by Julia Child whose aim was to bring people into the kitchen. You could cook along with her. My mom encouraged my sisters and me by giving us hands-on practice and guidance. Lots of shows today do not offer that kind of encouragement and instructive component."
VOLTAGGIOI agree. I agree, because, you know, I watched Julia Child when I was growing up. I mean, I was inspired by food. I mean, it was one of those -- there's other things -- and Jacques Pepin. I mean, you know, we grew up watching him too. And so there's all of these great culinary talents that were there who did inspire us to get back into the kitchen, and that's what, you know, my brother and I, we both feel like that.
VOLTAGGIOYou know, we want to -- I mean, "Volt ink" made it a little bit more difficult maybe to get you into the kitchen, but it gave you inspiration to get into the kitchen. You know, as we pointed out, there is no, you know, liquid nitrogen in everybody's kitchen. But, you know, in general, the media has done, what I think a wonderful job of getting people excited about food. And so the competition aspect, there's some inspiration there, you know, because it gets you excited about food and the experience and seeing fun things happening and how fast paced it is, and yes, it is a little bit more difficult to execute some of those dishes.
VOLTAGGIOThere should be more instructional cooking shows. They do need to be fun. They do need to be approachable. You know, I'd like to see some of that. You know, the format that I always loved was Emeril's. I thought he did a great job when he did "Emeril Live." He made food that made sense and it was fun, and, you know, it was energizing. But the thing was is that he always shared the food with the guests that were on the show...
VOLTAGGIO...and it was always an experience. And, you know, something like that again I think is what we're missing.
NNAMDIHow important is it to get a traditional foundation in cooking before attempting to break the rules or expand the rules?
VOLTAGGIOWell, there's -- we all know that, obviously, in restaurants and, you know, we have rich culinary history. There's a lot of information that's out there. There's a lot of classic technique that should be thought of first. You know, before, you know, applying all of these other, you know, modern techniques, which to us, I mean, nowadays, I believe they're just extra techniques in our tool bag. You know, we've just expanded the tool bag.
VOLTAGGIOYou know, they're not modern anymore. Now they're present-day techniques, and, you know, but the thing is, is always taking something -- starting with an idea and understand -- or the ingredient. You know, the ingredient is first. And then you take all of these tools that you have now and you apply, what's going to give me the best texture, what's going to give me the best flavor, how are we going to accent this ingredient, you know, the best to showcase it to make it the most important thing, you know, on the dish.
VOLTAGGIOAnd so looking at it from that standpoint I believe is what we're coming down to as professional cooks and chefs now.
NNAMDIHere's Elaine in Herndon, Va. Elaine, your turn.
ELAINEOh, wow, hi. Thank you for taking my call. I've started to become really picky about my meat, and earlier you were talking about the, you know, using the whole animal, and I was wondering about if you're going to incorporate -- or if you do incorporate grass-fed beef and, you know, more naturally raised animals at your restaurant.
VOLTAGGIONo. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, you should be able to trust now that, you know, that the restaurants that, you know, are working -- I mean, I have a very talented team that I'm working with, and my chefs and cooks, you know, are demanding also of how we procure our product. And so it is absolutely important to us. We want to know where our product comes from. We want to understand how it's fed. We want to understand how it's raised.
VOLTAGGIOWe understand that there's -- that, you know, obviously there's antibiotics and all of those things that are definitely buzz words are out there, you know, now that people are understanding, and so, you know, if you're going to a restaurant of Volt or RANGE's, you know, caliber, then, you know, you should be comfortable knowing that we're doing our work.
NNAMDIOne of the features that you will find at RANGE will be coming from the farm of Craig Rogers the owners of Border Springs Farm in Virginia...
NNAMDI...who we've had on this broadcast. Craig's lamb is going to be featured at RANGE. It's my understanding that you took your entire staff to Craig's farm at one point...
NNAMDI...and basically camped out.
VOLTAGGIOWe created a yearly experience now. Craig is a great, great friend, and a really unique individual. You know, someone who just fell in love with raising great quality lamb, and is doing such a great job with it, and -- but also is a huge supporter of the chef. And so the relationship between the chef and farmer is really strong. I just spoke with him yesterday, and so we have product arriving at RANGE for testing this week, and we've already scheduled out our products.
VOLTAGGIOI have 10 of his lamb coming in next week and, you know, we're excited to be working with it there. We have an opportunity to use more of his cuts, you know, and utilizing the whole product, so I ordered 10 lamb or example for RANGE next week, and -- yeah. He's -- so going back to the festival now that's called Lambstock. It started as a field trip because it's important to us and our restaurants that, you know, our staff understands where this product comes from.
VOLTAGGIOWe could talk about how we're ordering all of this great lamb and Craig Rogers and Border Springs, but if my staff can't share their experiences, and how -- then there's a disconnect. And, you know, we aren't going to go out there and preach at the table that, you know, even though Craig would love this, were we talk about him all time, but we want to staff to share the experience and understand that as a chef, myself, Brian, I'm looking for the best product, and so we took them down there, and it turned into now Craig inviting a bunch of friends and all of us getting together.
VOLTAGGIOAnd now there's a bunch of chefs that go down together every year in August, and we have a little festival.
NNAMDIIt's become a yearly experience.
NNAMDII want to get to Art in Frederick, Md., because Art, we only have about 30 seconds left, but you've got a quick story to tell.
ARTI'll talk fast. We live in downtown Frederick and we love all three restaurants, but I was just -- today is 10 year old's birthday and we played hooky for an hour and I took him to lunch at the International House of Pancakes where he ordered a chocolate milkshake, and I asked him how it was and he said, not bad, dad, but it's no Family Meal.
VOLTAGGIOWell, thank you.
NNAMDIAt 10 years old.
VOLTAGGIOIs the birthday today?
VOLTAGGIOWell, does he deserve two milkshakes?
ARTOh, I'll bring him by.
VOLTAGGIOTake him over there, and I'll make sure he has the best chocolate shake today, okay? I'm going to call them right now.
NNAMDIAll right. Thank you very much for your call. Brian Voltaggio, chef and owner of Volt, Family Meal, and Lunchbox in Frederick, Md., and the soon be opening up RANGE here in the District. He and his brother Michael, also a chef, co-authored a cookbook, "Volt ink." Brian, thank you so much for joining us.
VOLTAGGIOKojo, thank you for having me.
NNAMDIGood luck to you RANGE. It is within our RANGE, and so you will probably seeing a lot of "Kojo Nnamdi Show" producers there.
VOLTAGGIOI'll be great to have you. Thank you.
NNAMDIA lot of people from WAMU, too. Thank you all for listening.
NNAMDII'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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