Words and photos by Nevin Martell
Call it Chefstock. Or Chefapalooza, if you want to sound like a hipster. Last night, Bryan Voltaggio assembled an all-star line-up of chefs at Volt for his third annual dinner to raise money for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign. Joining him were his brother, Michael Voltaggio (ink.), Matt Orlando (NOMA), Spike Gjerde (Woodberry Kitchen), Erik Bruner-Yang (Toki Underground), and Eric Ziebold (CityZen). Each contributor crafted one canapé and one entrée for the evening, which stretched to the midnight hour.
The festivities began out on the patio, where Voltaggio circulated with a basket full of topless eggshells filled with a frothy sour cream and onion sabayon that hid a luxuriant mound of sturgeon roe at the bottom. He paused from hosting to herb brush a Trickling Springs lamb roasting over an open fire, which would be the chefs’ celebratory meal after the dinner had finished.
After an hour of mingling under clear blue skies, guests were ushered into the restaurant for the six-course dinner. Orlando came all the way from Copenhagen to craft the opener – a mélange of late summer berries and chanterelles with a dollop of fermented milk curd floating in a rose hip tea consommé. Light and refreshing, it possessed complementary undertones of tartness and tanginess.
For the second course, Gjerde made a glazed Chesapeake eel with a translucent, tissue-thin shaving of country ham and a blue ribbon corn pudding. Michael Voltaggio followed with my favorite dish of the evening: grilled halibut cheek with a pair of charcoal potatoes (volcanic black and salty on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside), swoops of soured cream and two dots of utterly unexpected – but totally winning – lemon curd. Suddenly, the Picasso references on Top Chef didn’t seem like reality show hyperbole after all.
We moved from sea to land with Bruner-Yang’s perfectly executed pork belly resting on a bed of earthy congee, then dappled with kernels and flowers. This pleasantly unexpected offering proved that this young chef will go way beyond pitch perfect ramen in the years to come.
The final savory course came from the host, who presented a round of rich pink lambchetta with a cocoa “dirt,” a small dash of applesauce, and creamed smoked almonds. Ziebold finished out the evening with a palate cleansing dessert: lime sorbet with lime madeleines perched on an assortment of summer melons.
When the meal was over, guests had the chance to bid on some truly spectacular experiences, including Bryan Voltaggio and his crew coming to the winner’s home to create a personalized Table 21 dinner for them and seven friends. In a surprisingly twist, five of these one-of-a-kind dinners were auctioned off, which raised over $50,000 for the evening’s cause in less than ten minutes (the whole event raised over $175k). It was a fireworks-worthy finale that will positively impact thousands of children across Maryland.