I'm certainly excited to discuss and talk about my new book HOME, my first opportunity to bring my thoughts and experiences in the professional kitchen back into my home kitchen, and give a window into when I'm (occasionally) home, what I cook for my friends and family. You can check out HOME here.

And a little bit about me: I'm a cook and a chef. A father of 3. I opened my first restaurant in 2008, in Frederick, MD, my hometown, and I still reside there. A lot of people know me from TOP CHEF season 6, where I was overcome by the powers of my brother, Michael Voltaggio, so I became a runner up. But then went on to also compete in TOP CHEF MASTERS season 5. And am the first contestant to make the transition from regular chef to Master's. I have 9 restaurants in the DC / MD / Virginia area. Love to cook. And occasionally get to play golf!


Victoria's helping me get started. AMA!


Update: I want to thank everybody for the time they spent today. Some really great questions. If you want to continue the conversation, you can follow me @BryanVoltaggio on Twitter, or @BryanVoltaggio on Instagram. And check out HOME for more recipes.

Comments: 369 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

BryanVoltaggio269 karma

I love beef jerky.

masshamacide88 karma

First off, as a massive Top Chef addict, I’m so thankful to have one of my favorite chefs from the series on here to do an AMA.

I’ve got several questions:

  • Do you think season six was one of those unfair seasons for the other chefs to participate in? I only ask this, because you and your brother along with Jennifer Carroll, in my opinions stood out the most--in some episodes, it just seemed unfair to be in a quickfire with you guys.

  • After a long night in the kitchen, what’s a favorite alcoholic drink to unwind with?

  • And how mesmerizing is Tom Colicchio?

BryanVoltaggio102 karma

There's a ton of great chefs in that season. Obviously my brother, myself, and then there's Kevin Gillespie, a great chef in Atlanta, as well as Eli Kirstein, also from Atlanta, and who can forget Mike Isabella, who is also a neighbor here in the DC area and a friend. It was a well-rounded season, with a lot of great chefs, and I was proud to be a part of it.

Stay away from that, cuz I like to wake up early. I got 3 kids who wake me up at 6 AM!

Mesmerizing? Tom is obviously an amazing chef. It was great to be a part of TOP CHEF & get to know him a bit better. Really thoughtful cook, and he's an advocate for things that are important for me as well, like child hunger, and he's a champion at getting these issues in the forefront.

msx69 karma

Hi there! Do you know that Voltaggio means "voltage" in italian? which makes it an awesome surname. And do you know that Massimo is a perfectly normal and widespread name for an italian male (originating from the Romans), that also happens to mean "max" in italian? This mean that if you name your child Massimo Voltaggio it would be like "Max Voltage" in Italy, and if that is not awesome, than i don't know what is.

BryanVoltaggio54 karma

I have 3 beautiful children, and that's going to be it. So maybe there's a dog in our future, named "Massimo Voltaggio!"

But currently we've already got one named Charlie, and I don't know if my wife will allow 2 in the house.

chefjohnny53 karma

Chef. Will our birthday be insane? or totally insane? trying to plan.

BryanVoltaggio66 karma


wetazn4u666940 karma

Fuck, marry, kill: eggs, bacon, pancakes?

BryanVoltaggio54 karma

I'd marry pancakes, cuz my wife makes the best.

mercfoot36 karma

Hi Bryan, Been to Volt and Family Meal. Love them both! A few questions: I'm constantly amazed by how much food can affect my mood. I remember when my father was in hospice care I treated myself to a day off which included an amazing meal. I was blown away by how much better I felt going home the next day. Do you have a specific comfort food that you brings you up when you're feeling down? Can you think of a time when you were down and you had a meal that turned your day/outlook around for you?

What are the characteristics that go into making a successful contestant on Top Chef other than simply being able to make good food? What is the difference between being able to compose a kick-ass restaurant menu vs. being able to put together those Top Chef dishes?

Antonia Lofaso said in an interview that, between the time that you hear the quickfire challenge and you start cooking there's a half-hour where everyone has to basically sign contracts, so you get a little time to work on a dish in your head. How long do you actually take to come up with a dish? How often is it based on something you've already made and how often is it something totally new?

Thanks for doing the AMA and for the great meals!

BryanVoltaggio37 karma

Comfort food - for me, personally, I find comfort in cooking. So sometimes if I have a bad day, you know, I might just go to the stove, get into one of those moods where I just wanna cook for myself and/or somebody, but I also look at it as quiet time. Typically, if there's something going on during the course of the day, I might even jump on one of my lines and either assist or push aside one of my cooks for a moment, just so I can go back to being a line cook because that's where I am most happy, cooking for myself and/or others.

During the challenges, the best thing to do is cook what you know, cook within your ability, and cook within your repertoire. What I've found is contestants in the history of TOP CHEF who try to cook against others and not with themselves are typically ones that don't succeed. Stay true to who you are. Cook to the best of your ability, and just have fun doing so.

Obviously, menu planning in a restaurant, you're allowed more time to focus on what the outcome is going to be. Under time constraints, in a TOP CHEF scenario or some other food competition, you're pressured by time, and so typically you'll find at the end of it, you'll find you could've done something better than what you did, haha!

In the restaurant you always have the ability of trial & error prior to putting it on the menu.

So sometimes things pop right into your head. Sometimes you have to create as you go. Certainly there's a few minutes before the challenge actually starts, but not a lot of time to think through every thought.

However, again, leaning on your repertoire is just the best way of going about it.

Frajer29 karma

What's the most overrated and underrated dish in your opinion ?

BryanVoltaggio140 karma

Underrated is the backyard crab feast.

yokozunabob27 karma

Do you have any tips on getting kids to try new foods?

BryanVoltaggio89 karma

I have 3 young kids. One who is 7, who is on the picky side. The best thing to do that I've found is actually get them in the kitchen, let them be a part of the cooking process, and you'll see them slowly start to reach out to try new things.

NoranPrease24 karma

Hey Bryan!

I live in Frederick and have been to Volt and Family Meal a few times, and I gotta say they are wonderful. That being said...

If you could rectify one common food misconception, what would it be?

Also, can you share the secret of getting that deliciously crispy/salty crust you put on your pork tenderloins?

BryanVoltaggio25 karma

One common food misconception? Less is more.

However, I think that more time spent in the kitchen yields more delicious flavors. Think stews, braises, things that take time and attention and patience. And not rushing it.

And the crispy-salty crust - you put together anything that's crispy and salty and you get a great crust I guess, haha! It's typically panko bread crumbs that have been toasted in clarified butter, and at that point, that can be the basis for any crispy salty crust that you're looking for.

astrophysically_fit22 karma

What is your favorite restaurant to eat at if you couldn't cook at home? (PS shout out to Frederick! My hometown too!)

BryanVoltaggio19 karma

TSSH TSSH TSHH let's see.

My current favorite new restaurant in the area is Stella Bara, by my friend Jeff Mahin.

Just opened in Bethesda.

HugAThunderMug22 karma

What do you suggest doing with pork cutlets (pork cube steaks)?

BryanVoltaggio26 karma

Marinade, grill, season lightly, serve with a great side.

gringostroh21 karma

I acquired and cooked venison tenderloin one time. Now nothing will ever be as good. Is there a cure for this affliction?

BryanVoltaggio24 karma

Uh, NO! Hahahahah! Of course not.

I'm into the game meats myself. I actually very much like to cook again within season, so when Venison is in season in the fall, you'll certainly see it appear on my menus.

gringostroh15 karma

Back to wandering the woods aimlessly hoping one will wander in grabbing distance I guess.

BryanVoltaggio9 karma


Can't wait to get there.

_just_a_dude_16 karma

What's your favorite thing to sous vide?

After seeing you and your brother's different take on the Thanksgiving turkey, I was blown away by the results when I'd done confit legs at home.

BryanVoltaggio27 karma

Typically things I'm going long-braise. Things I'm going to cook in fats. For example, like beef in smoked fat, like short ribs, so that way they tenderize very slowly but also pick up the nuances of the smoked fat flavor, yielding a delicious short rib.

brainstomp12 karma

You can only choose one knife to use for the rest of your life - What knife do you go with? (Make, model, etc. and why?)

BryanVoltaggio22 karma

It would be... the brand SHUN comes out with a new knife every season. I have many different varieties of their knives. The one I grab mostly is the 8 inch chef's knife. I feel like that can accomplish almost anything in the kitchen, just with that one knife.

Zykium12 karma

What's your go to meal when you get off work?

BryanVoltaggio16 karma

I typically try not to eat when I get off of work. I try to keep balanced meals. But if it's a late night sometimes, I'll snack. I might gravitate towards a slice of pizza or something like that on the way home.

courtiebabe42012 karma

Hi Bryan, thanks for being here today. How do you balance family and work life with so much going on?

BryanVoltaggio10 karma

As I continue to grow restaurants and get involved in many more things as a chef, this family / work / life balance is very top of mind. I have a very loving and supportive family, who understands my passion and goals and supports me. But then again, I need to give back the same support to my family and their goals and wishes. So communication is key in creating the balance.

Lovich60412 karma

How do you salt? Do you shake? Grind it? Or sprinkle over the top?

You can tell a lot by the way someone salts....

BryanVoltaggio46 karma

Actually, we use a very specific percentage to season our ingredients with. We use, by weight, we measure the finished product or the product to be cooked, and then we multiply it by .005, or a half-percent, to get the proper amount of salt to use to season the dish. You'll see that formula carried through in the new book to make seasoning easy and formulate.

neon70610 karma

What is comfort food for you?

What's your biggest splurge?

BryanVoltaggio21 karma

Comfort food for me... again, home cooked meals, cooking for others, cooking with my family is what's comforting for me.

My biggest splurge... Tssh tssh tssh... I travel for food. I won't hold back. If there's something I need to try, I'll get there. That's happened many times. So I guess traveling for food.

Searingm110 karma

Hey Bryan! Does Padma know much about being a chef? How do you guys handle criticisms from her knowing she doesn't have experience?

BryanVoltaggio31 karma

Padma has plenty of experience. She spends tons of her time at the table and the stove. Mostly we see her at the table, where she has certainly developed a very reliable palate, and the times that she spoke to my food, she certainly picked up on things that I tried to have come across in a dish.

sonofcat9 karma

Welcome to reddit, and thank you for sharing your time with us Bryan!

Cast iron skillets, why or why not? I've always been told they taste better with certain foods, but I haven't looked into it much.

BryanVoltaggio14 karma

Actually, there's a recipe in my new book HOME, which asks for a cast-iron skillet to cook the steak dinner. The reason why I love cast iron is for its even heating surface, the fact that you can obviously have a very seasoned skillet that creates a nonstick surface, and as long as you take care of it, it'll also last you a lifetime.

yokozunabob7 karma

What great chef would you have liked to have competed against on Top Chef Masters?

BryanVoltaggio17 karma

Honestly, I'm looking for a rematch against Doug Keane, laugh.

PastelFlamingo1506 karma

How often do people call you "Voltage"?

BryanVoltaggio13 karma

That used to be my nickname as a line cook at Aureole in New York City.

PastelFlamingo1507 karma

Who names a restaurant after a part of a woman's nipple?

BryanVoltaggio29 karma

"Aureole" is a restaurant where I first got my start working for Charlie Palmer. Its original location was on 61st between Park and Madison. Now it's near Times Square.

That's different than "Areola."

FoieGrasAndBeer6 karma

Hi Bryan, I was wondering which restaurants are on your bucket list, and which restaurant is, in your opinion, the best?

BryanVoltaggio11 karma

As of right now? Tssh tssh - that's really hard.

Arzak in Spain... I've never been to Alinea in Chicago... Osteria Francscana, in Modina, Italy... and the next one I come across, because I'm always looking for new restaurants.


Hey Bryan! I'm thinking about starting my own restaurant. Any advice for a first timer?

BryanVoltaggio11 karma

If you haven't managed or been involved with management on the front end of the restaurant (or the back end), immerse yourself in both sides NOW. If you're a chef, obviously, surround yourself with a good team, first and foremost. And be sure to see your vision through. Because if not, then it won't be authentic.

Slight3165 karma

Question about Home Knife care.

I've recently heard that you don't really need to soap up a knife. Just a good rinse in hot water and a wipe down will suffice.

How do you care for your knives?

Also as a non-celebrity chef, what should I look for in a good knife? Brand suggestions?

I have always been privy to Henckle's (Own a 6" chefs kinfe, a deboning knife, and a paring knife). What should I look to next to purchase?

BryanVoltaggio16 karma

You should always clean & sanitize your knives.

However, never put them in an automated dishwasher, because the heat tends to wreak havoc on the sharp edge.

You should look for a good sturdy knife that feels good in your hands. Knives are personal. It should feel good when you pick it up. You'll know when you pick it up, I know that sounds difficult, but if you go to a store with a good selection of knives, you'll know. Especially a cookware store.

Everyone should have a good, sharp chef's knife. And at least a paring knife. And you can accomplish most of what you need to do with those two.

Slight3164 karma

Hello Bryan,

What is your favorite "lazy" dish to make?

Also, what is an ingredient which I as a semi-competent home cook should definitely learn to use?

Finally, if you were cooking a romantic meal for your significant other tonight, what would this look like?

BryanVoltaggio10 karma


Salt. It's important to use it.

Something simple, heartfelt, something that I know she will enjoy.

Slight3168 karma

To up the ante, I asked these same questions to your brother during his AMA.

His answers were: * Grilled Cheese * Vinegar * Oysters

What brand of cereal? Dry or over milk?

Can you give some examples of how to properly season a dish? How do I know when I have hit that point of "just enough salt" right before "oh god give me something to drink."

Care to elaborate on this dish you are making for your SO?

BryanVoltaggio4 karma

Brand of cereal? tssh tssh - I definitely prefer it over milk. I like graham-flavored cereals. Cascadian Farms Graham Cereal is probably my go to.

LatenightSurfer4 karma

According to you what is the healthiest snack which is also easy to make?

BryanVoltaggio14 karma

Hmmm. Healthiest snack.

Tssh tssh tssh.

Hummus is good. I like making fresh hummus is in different ways, with other purees. You can use green peas, fava beans, when they're in season. But I also like salsas, and of course, guacamole. Anything where you can take a crispy vehicle to dip into can be not only delicious but also slightly healthy (I guess you could say).

AKACherry4 karma

Do you find any type of food harder or easier to cook? Sometimes I see famous chefs remark that something is harder than anything else they'd done before.

BryanVoltaggio8 karma

Again, just talking about patience - when you're talking about tougher cuts of meat, or things that take a good amount of time, with everybody's busy lifestyles, taking the time to follow through on a dish becomes more difficult than it used to be. Carving out the right amount of time, and planning your day or weekend so you pay full attention to a dish from start to finish will always yield the most delicious results.

clementines33 karma

Will you pleaaase expand your healthy vegan options at all your restaurants here in DC/MD/VA? You're the best chef ever, I KNOW you can do it.

BryanVoltaggio17 karma

Certainly as a chef I recognize my guests' needs, wishes, wants and trends. Especially going into the Spring season, I get excited about dishes like what you're looking for. You'll start to see more and more appearing on my menus.

tcodner3 karma

I know you're an advocate of venison. Goto preparation for cuts like backstrap or loin?

BryanVoltaggio7 karma

You know, for me, I like to marinate the meat first. With a dry seasoning. So some sort of a salt cure, typically for 4-5 hours, just to - and it can be any preference, if you like heavy spices, or something that's a bit sweeter with some sugar and/or coffee grounds (I like to use that as well when I'm marinating venison, I have a great coffee rub for venison in the book HOME you could use for it - it's for pork shoulder in the book). Let it sit for a few hours, then let it rest in a pan, then baste it with butter. Roast it until it gets to the correct temperature - I like mine rare to medium rare, because venison is very lean, so it tends to dry out unless you cook it on the underdone side.

padregsmith2 karma

In your opinion, what are the top 5 must have cookbooks that everyone should have in their homes?

BryanVoltaggio18 karma

5 copies of HOME. So you could share 'em with your friends, hahaha! ;)

wafflefortress2 karma

What's your typical (or atypical) process for creating a new dish and getting it on the menu? If it's even possible to calculate, how many hours go into formulating it, figuring out the overhead and labor, etc...?

Alternately: what's the story behind one of your favorite dishes?

BryanVoltaggio8 karma

Typically things all start with the ingredient. Obviously, I cook very seasonally, so I get excited for the process of creating a new dish by focusing on the starting point, and then applying whatever cooking processes we have in our bag of tricks as a chef. The great thing is there are so many now where we can - fruits and vegetables specifically - use many cooking techniques, so this time of year, Spring, is the most exciting.

mellifluousbird-3 karma

Would you rather fight 1 gigantic duck-sized horse or 10 duck-sized horses?

BryanVoltaggio4 karma

I think I would rather fight 10 small things. Because I might get bored after the first. I like new challenges.