Chef Bryan Voltaggio is at the forefront of a generation of chefs who are reinventing American cooking through a commitment to farm-to-table cuisine. Since opening VOLT in his native Frederick, Md., Bryan’s cuisine has earned him many accolades, including being nominated for a coveted James Beard Award as Best Chef Mid-Atlantic in 2010 and being named Chef of the Year by both the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Share Our Strength and the Restaurant Association of Maryland that same year. He was also a finalist on the sixth season of Bravo TV’s hit show Top Chef in 2009.
Bryan’s passion for this style of cooking was fostered throughout his childhood in Frederick County, where meals often included produce harvested from the family garden. ”I baled hay and pulled corn,” he says. “I can remember when the neighbors would all gather at my parents’ house and we’d shuck corn and make it into creamed corn. Those are the things that impacted me on the importance of food.”
Already committed to a career in cooking by his early teens, Bryan served as sous chef and executive chef at two regional hotel restaurants by the age of 20. Aware of his need for more formal training, he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., during which time he also cooked at the highly acclaimed Hamilton Inn in nearby Millerton.
Upon graduation, he staged at several restaurants in Manhattan, including chef Charlie Palmer’s Aureole, where Bryan worked his way up to become the restaurant’s sous chef. “Charlie Palmer provided me with the professional and practical experiences that fast-tracked my career,” Bryan says of his mentor. Several years later and after a brief yet informative stage at the Michelin three-star Pic restaurant in Valence, France, Bryan returned to assist Charlie as executive chef at Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington, D.C.
Following nine successful years with Charlie, Bryan embarked on his dream of opening his own restaurant. VOLT opened in 2008, allowing him to bring his cooking philosophies and signature preparations to fruition, characterizing his modern American cuisine as “sophisticated dishes offering classic flavor combinations that are created using fundamental and innovative techniques.”
His menus for VOLT are additionally driven by fresh, seasonal offerings, and the chef is an advocate for meats, seafood and produce that are locally sourced, sustainable and organic. “Through our choice of ingredients, we become engaged in more than creating a great dining experience, but in supporting local agriculture,” he notes.
In addition, Bryan collaborated with the internationally renowned, Frederick-based Flying Dog Brewery in spring 2011 to create Backyard Ale, complete with the signature illustrated label bearing the chef’s portrait. He is also using his television experience to begin hosting Maryland Public Television’sObsessed With Everything Food.
Bryan, 35, and his wife, Jennifer, live in Frederick with their son, Thacher , and daughter, Piper.