The staff footwear at every Bryan Voltaggio restaurant is a reminder of the celebrity chef’s humble beginnings in Frederick — back when Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars was the shoe of choice for middle-class kids. Back before Chuck Taylors were gobbled up by the Nike empire and transformed into a line of blue-collar, retro-chic, special-edition sneakers, selling for $50 and more, all without any sense of betrayal to the generations of loyal wearers who could no longer afford the skips.
Sorry, I’m wandering off topic here: Back to the footwear at Voltaggio restaurants. I was reminded at last night’s media preview for Range that Voltaggio likes to outfit his staff in colored-coded Chucks at his three establishments: Brown at Volt, gray at Family Meal and now black at Range.
Wassup with that, chef?
“I grew up wearing Chucks. It was one of my favorite shoes,” Voltaggio told All We Can Eat between escorting reporters on tours of his grand, sprawling kitchen. “Probably because my Dad was a state trooper, my mom was a legal assistant and we had three kids. Chucks are cheap.
“They used to be cheap,” Voltaggio corrected himself.
As a boy growing up in Frederick, Voltaggio preferred black high-top Chucks, which he would wear while skateboarding and just “blow them apart.” Duct tape was his friend as a kid; he would use the industrial-strength tape to repair gaping holes on his Chucks, usually around the toe section.
When Volt opened in the summer of 2008, the owner and chef wanted to make sure his destination restaurant didn’t sacrifice its own individual personality to the voracious self-importance of fine dining.
“We didn’t want to appear stuffy,” Voltaggio said. “If a server walks up and you see him walking away. . . Those are Chuck Taylors! It kind of softens the experience a little bit. That was the idea.”
The Post’s food critic Tom Sietsema certainly noticed. In his original October 2008 review, he wrote, “Sense of whimsy? Just look at the servers’ feet. The waiters are wearing Chuck Taylor sneakers with their jackets.”
Range is set to open Dec. 18 at 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW in the Chevy Chase Pavilion.