To hear some chefs trumpet their commitment to hyper-seasonal ingredients and local farmers can induce eye rolls, evoking a Portlandia sketch in the making. But talk to VOLT’s Bryan Voltaggio and it immediately becomes clear that cooking with the bounty of northwest Maryland is not about hopping the foodie bandwagon, but rather an act of honoring his roots and the way he was raised. Growing up in Frederick County with brother Michael (his co-star on season six of Bravo’s Top Chef and the chef-owner of ink. in Los Angeles), Voltaggio would pluck vegetables from the back garden and take them straight to the kitchen, where his mother made a homecooked meal every night.
“Food was a big part of my childhood,” says Voltaggio. “My mom was a single working mother with three kids, but she made sure that we always sat down to something she had prepared, whether that was a casserole, or chicken and dumplings, or spaghetti with her own spaghetti sauce. It was always simple food, made with whole ingredients.”
It’s a philosophy that stayed with Voltaggio as he began his swift upward trajectory through the kitchen ranks, first training at the Culinary Institute of America, and then working under the mentorship of Charlie Palmer at Aureole in New York, as well as at France’s three Michelin-starred Pic.
After coming in as runner-up to his brother’s first place on Top Chef, Voltaggio has built a mini dining empire in his hometown of Frederick, showcasing his signature brand of regionally focused modern American cuisine at three local restaurants, as well as the new Range in Washington D.C. The most notable of the bunch remains his first—the James Beard-nominated VOLT, housed in Frederick’s historic Houck Mansion—where the chef transforms simple, local ingredients into gastronomic works of art.
Here, Voltaggio shares the ten dishes from VOLT’s first five years that reflect his journey from the gardens of Maryland, to the fast-paced kitchens of Manhattan, to TV stardom—and then, ultimately, right back to where he started.
Written by Phoebe Lovatt (@PhoebeLovatt)