My first cookbook, Volt Ink (Olive Press, 2011), documented life in a kitchen in a New American restaurant. I wrote it with my brother, Michael, when we were running our restaurants, Volt and Ink, and battling spatula-à-spatula on Top Chef.
During the process of writing those recipes, it became apparent to me that it would be a book that people would not be able cook from every day. Professionals could up their game with the book—its design would make it stand out on any coffee table—but the dishes required a good degree of chef skill and technique, and access to high-quality and hard-to-find ingredients.
When I began thinking about my next cookbook, I kept focusing on the fact that—as a professional cook—I am in the kitchens of my restaurants and away from home most nights every week, cooking for my customers. I value those special days when I get to cook for those whom I am closest with. In Home, I wanted to share that experience with others and, hopefully, inspire them to cook in their own homes as well. So with that in mind, I decided to step out of my professional kitchen and turn on the oven at home.
Once I got the idea, I reached out to Alex Talbot and Aki Kamozawa from the blog Ideas in Food, who cowrote Volt Ink with my brother and me. They helped me translate my recipes to the page with precision.
There was one experience in particular that sums up the reasons why I wanted to write Home. During the first photo shoot for the book, I assigned to my six-year-old son, Thacher, the task of helping me with food preparation. At one point, Thacher jumped up onto the counter, grabbed some ingredients, and started cooking. While I was busy plating dishes for Ed Anderson—the book’s photographer—Thacher began directing one of my restaurant chefs who came to help. My son asked him to gather the ingredients—poppy and fennel seeds, pine nuts, garlic powder, sea salt—and instructed him on how to cut the potatoes for Thacher’s original recipe Cola-Braised Potatoes.
Through his creation, Thacher showed all of us in my kitchen that cooking is about having fun. Anyone can get in the kitchen and—with a little inspiration—create a great meal. In the final pages of Home, you will find a photo of Thacher’s Cola-Braised Potatoes, as well as his handwritten recipe. With this book, I want people to feel successful in their kitchens. I want to help them build confidence with each recipe, and, most importantly, to allow them to have fun cooking with those they love. The home kitchen is where the heart is—and it is where the best meals are cooked.
Bryan Voltaggio is the executive chef and owner of several restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. His first solo cookbook, Home: Recipes to Cook with Family and Friends, will be out in April from Little, Brown.