Aaron Silverman always knew his chef de cuisine was temporary, and after helping build Rose's Luxury into one of Washington's most decorated new restaurants in recent memory, Scott Muns has given his notice. Next month, Muns will return to Volt in Frederick, where he previously worked for Bryan Voltaggio as sous chef.
This time around, however, Muns will take over the Volt kitchen, replacing current chef de cuisine Graeme Ritchie, who will assume a larger role with Voltaggio's family of restaurants.
"The more I grow as a chef, the less that it is about me," Voltaggio says during a phone interview. "I feel like I’m stronger if I use the resources of others.”
"It’s not always one head that makes [a restaurant] successful, it’s many," Voltaggio adds. "The more opinions brought to the table, the better.”
Like at Rose's Luxury, the chef de cuisine is more than kitchen commander at Volt. At both places, the chef de cuisine is a close collaborator with the man who created the original vision for the restaurant, whether Silverman at Rose's or Voltaggio at Volt. The chef de cuisine assists the owner in designing dishes, training staff and generally making sure everyone understands the underlying principles of the restaurant. In this sense, the chef de cuisine is both generator and enforcer of standards.
The presence of Muns was certainly a comfort to Silverman when he started piecing together Rose's on Barracks Row. Before the place opened last fall, Silverman wasn't even sure he needed a chef de cuisine for such a small kitchen team. But he knew he needed Muns, who previously worked with Silverman at 2941 in Falls Church when the two were still neophytes in the kitchen.
"I just knew he was a good cook, a good chef and a good friend," Silverman says. "I wanted to bring him with me," even if their collaboration would be short.
Silverman released an audible sigh of relief when Muns agreed to join Rose's team in July 2013. He needed Muns to essentially run the kitchen as Silverman dealt with the thousands of little tasks and bureaucratic annoyances that arise when designing, constructing and opening a new restaurant. "He was the leader when I was dealing with emergencies, which were rampant," Silverman says.
Clearly, their collaboration has succeeded beyond all expectation. Not even a year old, Rose's Luxury has already earned three stars from The Post's Tom Sietsema, not to mention nods from publications as diverse as the Kansas City Star and Bon Appetit. Just this week, Southern Living named Rose's the second-best new restaurant in the South. (A previous version of this story said Southern Living named the restaurant the second-best in the South overall.)
At the end of the month, the man who helped Rose's achieve this success will leave Silverman's employ. The boss is still deciding how to replace Muns; Silverman may hire another chef de cuisine, or he may hire a sous chef. Either way, Silverman expects to be in the kitchen more now that the business side of Rose's Luxury is stabilizing.
"It's all about finding the right person," Silverman says, "not the specific title."
Muns will start at Volt on Sept. 16. Voltaggio says flat-out that if Muns hadn't accepted the chef de cuisine job, "we wouldn't have made this change." Voltaggio is still outlining Ritchie's new responsibilities, but the Volt veteran is expected to help oversee the boss's expanding family of restaurants, which includes not just the fine-dining flagship in Frederick, but also Range in Washington, Aggio (two locations), Family Meal (soon to be three locations) and the recently relaunched Lunchbox.
"I can’t be in every restaurant at every moment," Voltaggio says. "So I need to work with people who see things the way I do."
But more than that, Voltaggio wants chefs who push him beyond his limits, much like Muns did with Silverman at Rose's. It seems to be a trend among chefs: Find collaborators they trust to help them progress beyond their own human limitations.
"I'm bringing in other people and other palates into the mix," Voltaggio says, "so we can push our food."
An earlier version of this story counted only two planned locations for Family Meal. A third location is planned for Richmond, along with a soon-to-open branch in Ashburn.