The kitchen in Bryan Voltaggio’s previous home was small. It had an electric oven, bisque-colored appliances and such a dearth of cabinet space that most of his cooking equipment was stored in a free-standing cabinet in another room.
The kitchen in his home today? Well, it’s much different.
Earlier this year, Voltaggio, 35, moved his family of four to a five-bedroom house just down the road in Frederick. Not surprisingly, the kitchen was one of the main attractions for the chef.
“I like that it feels like a professional kitchen environment,” says Voltaggio, “and we have space to entertain a lot of people.”
A spacious, 20-by-20-foot room houses multiple rows of dark wood cabinets, granite countertops, a walk-in pantry, a wet bar, a granite-topped center island and stainless-steel appliances, including the high-tech Samsung refrigerator that Voltaggio and his brother, Michael, can be seen pitching in a recent television commercial.
Adjacent and open to the kitchen is a 21-by-11-foot addition, which the previous owners used as a sunroom. But the Voltaggios consider it an additional dining area. A 77-inch white oak table sits in the center, and a wine refrigerator stands nearby.
With the ample space, Voltaggio now has more than enough room to house all of his favorite kitchen “toys,” as he calls them, including a Vitamix blender (an investment he highly recommends), a Delonghi espresso machine (a gift from his brother), a Breville toaster oven and, the most recent addition, an Acrobaleno pasta extruder (an extremely fancy pasta maker).
The extra room also makes it easier for him to do something else he loves: cook with his 4-year-old son.
“Thatcher likes to cook more than he likes to eat,” says Voltaggio. “Sometimes I’ll come home and there will be carrot peels on the counter. He won’t eat the carrots, but he’ll peel them.”
To foster his son’s interest in food, Voltaggio includes Thatcher in meal prep.
“Kids love Play-Doh, so why not give them pasta dough?” he says. “Their eating habits will be better if you cook with them.”
Voltaggio says he cooks at home less than one would think. But when he does, it’s typically for crowds. For last month’s Super Bowl, he and his wife, Jennifer, hosted 50 people.
Cooking for large crowds has become second nature to Voltaggio, whose Frederick restaurant Volt has become a popular, hard-to-get-a-reservation-for destination. Besides his cooking (he was recently nominated for a James Beard Award: best chef, Mid-Atlantic), the restaurant’s high profile can be attributed to his appearance on “Top Chef” seven months after Volt opened in 2008.
“I’m glad I did ‘Top Chef,’ ” he says. “I definitely enjoyed the experience, and I can’t deny we are busier because of it. But I was asked to do All-Stars, and I declined because I want to stay in the restaurant. . . . I want to stay close to the stove.”
Back in his home kitchen, Voltaggio is planning a few minor tweaks. He’d like to remove the island and replace it with a U-shaped or L-shaped cookspace. He wants to add a wine cellar in the basement, replace the double oven and microwave, swap out the gas range with an induction cooktop and, maybe, change the ceramic tile backsplash.
He also put something on his wish list.
“I look forward to the day they start selling commercial-grade appliances that have color,” he said. “I would get them, but I wouldn’t get the bisque.”
Lives in: Frederick
‘TOP CHEF’: Season 6 runner-up
Volt. Modern American restaurant in Frederick, opened 2008
LunchBox. Sandwich shop in Frederick, opened December 2011
Range. Hybrid steakhouse in Chevy Chase, tentatively scheduled to open early fall 2012
“VOLT Ink.” Cookbook co-authored with his brother Michael, published 2011
“Obsessed With Everything Food.”PBS series, began airing 2012
Favorite things about your kitchen: Everything is easy to find and easy to access. Having all this space to entertain a lot of people.
Most important element of a kitchen: Using it. It shouldn’t just be a showpiece; it should be a place where you gather and entertain and you use it.
Kitchen item you can’t live without:
A good set of sharp knives. They are the most important things in the kitchen. You can do anything with them, from butchering meat to cutting pasta. (He recommends Shun knives for home kitchens, Michel Bras for professional kitchens.)
Advice for someone renovating a kitchen: Maximize space and storage. Try to increase counter space without taking away from floor space. Don’t sacrifice counter space for equipment. Get appliances that are heavy duty, that will last and are easy to clean and easy to use. If it feels like a lot of work to use the kitchen, you’ll probably use it less.
Least favorite trend: Appliances concealed by cabinetry. It doesn’t look like a kitchen.
Something people think they must have but really don’t need: Gimmicky things or tools that only have one use, such as herb strippers; use scissors. Or garlic peelers; instead, throw cloves into two identical stainless-steel bowls and shake them. The things you really need are the things you actually use.
Kitchen items worth investing in: Vitamix blender and a Bamix immersion blender.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be? An architectural landscaper. I like cutting grass. I like things looking organized and clean. And I would like to be outdoors, still working with my hands, creating something and seeing a different product from place to place.
Describe your dream kitchen: Besides swapping out some appliances for commercial brands and organizing a little, I already have my dream kitchen, so I’m pretty happy.