FOCUSED, PASSIONATE, INTENSE: MY INTERVIEW WITH TOP CHEF WINNER MICHAEL VOLTAGGIO

In January 2012, I had the honor of sitting down with the owner of ink. Restaurant, ink.sack and Top Chef champ (and fellow Frederick-tonian) Michael Voltaggio. I really wanted to re-post this piece – let’s all get our inner chef’s inspired, shall we? It’s the HOLIDAYS!!!

PS – I have the Voltaggio Brothers (yep, Michael AND Bryan!) homemade applesauce recipe..it’s SO easy to make! I’ll post it in time for Thanksgiving 🙂

 Focused, Passionate, Intense: Meet Top Chef Winner Michael Voltaggio

When entering celebrated Chef Michael Voltaggio’s new restaurant, ink., one cannot help the feeling as if interrupting a conductor who is privately guiding his orchestra through its greatest concerto. With movements that are quick and decisive it’s no wonder three words come to mind to describe Voltaggio: focused, passionate and intense.

It’s this focus, this passion and this intensity that seeps its way out of the kitchen and onto the main floor here in the home of his newest passion project. Tucked away in the corner of a non-descript brick building on famed Melrose Avenue, ink., opened in September in the heart of West Hollywood. LA’s newest eatery boasts an industrial interior with a minimalist vibe and has quickly become a must-stop for foodies and Top Chef enthusiasts alike.

When comparing ink.’s menus from one week to the next, it can be noted that a limited amount of items are part of his regular repertoire. Voltaggio prefers mixing things up weekly. Served on small plates and meant for sharing, his menu is peppered with interesting options that ring of familiar fare, yet with a culinary twist.

A dish such as the jidori chicken and waffles with hot sauce served with whipped maple syrup is his creative spin on the traditional dish of Southern fried chicken and waffles. Voltaggio also expands diner’s minds and palates by offering a kale salad tossed lightly with burrata, Asian pear, pumpkin seeds and a yuzu sauce.

Other menu items that are tempting taste buds to come out of their humdrum shells are the beef tartare that is served with horseradish snow, hearts of palm, and a sea bean chimichurri. There’s also a dish of brussels sprouts, much like a side dish served for a family dinner. Except Votaggio finishes his version with thinly sliced pig ears, house-cured lardo and apple.

As if one restaurant wasn’t enough, Voltaggio also opened a culinary sandwich shop, ink.sack, in August. In his own way, he has made the ordinary sandwich quite the opposite. The menu at ink.sack offers sandwiches such as a beef tongue Reuben and the “CLT”, his take on the traditional BLT. Voltaggio’s version has the lettuce and tomato but the similarity ends there. The “C’ is a chicken liver mousse topped with crispy chicken skin as the bacon substitute.

Voltaggio also makes sure to tip his hat to his Maryland roots, by including Maryland Crab Chips on ink.sack’s daily menu. Homemade deep-fried potato crisps dusted with Old Bay seasoning adds a new spin on the BBQ potato chip for resident Angelinos. This is definitely not your run-of-the mill sandwich shop.

Sitting down with Michael Voltaggio, you begin to understand his rise to stardom amongst other culinary favorites such as Thomas Keller or James Beard. Food enthusiasts think nothing of including his name among lists of the best. The reason?

He’s becoming one of the greats himself.

“I work the line, I cook the food, I order it, I wash the dishes if I have to. I want to be in my restaurant cooking, not be the guy that is never (there),” said Voltaggio.  “I want to focus, right now, my time in LA.”

How does he spend his time when he owns and operates not one, but two restaurants? Well, there’s a consulting gig for a to be announced project in India on the agenda and don’t forget about the cookbook, VOLTink, which he’s been on the road promoting with his brother Brian. One thing is for certain; Voltaggio’s schedule is not for the faint of heart.

In fact balance is something he finds himself struggling with on a daily basis.

“Lately, it’s been all traveling, so I really haven’t had much time to have a lot of  “fun” at all. I used to go hiking a lot. When I had time, I did things like normal people do: I’d exercise and surf, I went outside. I’d like to be able to go outside again,” he said with a grin.

In the midst of his hectic schedule, there is some light though. “I do go out to eat, I ride my Harley and I like to go to shows and concerts when I can.”

Voltaggio’s talent and passion became properly introduced when he was as a teenager, living in Frederick, Maryland, attending Thomas Johnson High School, playing football and working part-time at the Holiday Inn.

“I was in school full time, going to football practice then going to work. I think out of the whole course of my day, the part I looked forward to the most was going to work, and it wasn’t just because I was getting paid. It was fun. I was working on the line cooking food. I couldn’t wait to get there everyday.”

This education helped as he began planning his restaurant after his Top Chef win in 2009.

“I think Los Angeles is a city that has never been taken seriously as a food town. Within the past five years, (we’ve seen) this small food community start to get bigger and bigger, and grow and grow because there is a need for it. People are interested in going out to eat in LA. Food is big, but it hasn’t been as chef-driven or chef-branded.”

When asked what restaurants or nightlife he likes to imbibe in when traveling home to Frederick, Voltaggio’s grin widened as he shared, “Olde Towne Tavern and of course, I’m going to always go check out Volt.”

And where will Chef Voltaggio be in the next few years?

“Hopefully, still in LA, still running ink, maybe with a couple smaller restaurants around,” he said thoughtfully. “I missed my twenties and most likely am going to miss my thirties, so I’d really like to enjoy my forties.”

Photo credit: Alex Horner (for LA Times Magazine)

Photo credit: Alex Horner
(for LA Times Magazine)

 

 

 

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The Company We Keep: In search of like minds…

We’re all Late Bloomer’s at heart aren’t we? I needed to make sure I was keeping good company – not just good. AMAZING. Yes, AMAZING company.

Here’s who I found – if you can think of anyone else and want to share, leave a note in the comments! 

 

1. Stan Lee was in his early 40s when he created Spider-Man  – and artist Jack Kirby, Lee’s partner, started drawing The Fantastic Four when he was 44

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2. Rodney Dangerfield didn’t get his first “big” break until he was 42.

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3. Julia Child published “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” when she was 49. She was on TV by her early 50s.

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4. Charles Bukowski was 49 when his first book was published.

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5. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first book – “Little House in the Big Woods” – came out when she was 65.

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Five Questions: Lia Davis (and a giveaway!)

Today, I’m hosting author Lia Davis on my blog! Lia’s latest book, Death’s Storm: A Divinities Novel, was released just a few weeks ago. Lia is not only the mother to two young adults and two very special kitties, but she is also a wife to her soul mate, a paranormal romance author, graphic designer, and co-owner to Fated Desires Publishing, LLC!

Um, and you thought YOU were busy?

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I caught up with her long enough to ask her a few questions and to learn that she’s planning on a special giveaway that’s detailed after her interview. Read on for the book blurb, info on where to get the book and how to find Lia!!

Five Questions with Lia

 1. What inspired you to write Death’s Storm?

Death’s Storm is the second book in my Divinities series. So everything just fell into place. By the time I finished with Forgotten Visions, I know what Khloe needed to throw her off balance. And her death demon does that.

 2. When did you start writing?

I’ve always loved creative writing and making up stories since I was elementary school. It wasn’t until I started reading paranormal romance about four years ago, that I decided to dive in and start writing to be published.

3. If you had one piece of advice you could share with beginning authors, what would it be?

 Never stop writing. Write for yourself and write what you love to read. Also join a critique group.

 4. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

 I started out as a pantser, but now I’m a hybrid. LOL. I have to develop my characters and create chapter outlines before I sit down to write the story.

 5. Favorite holiday food?

 Sweets! Fudge, iced sugar cookies and other holiday treats.

 

~~ GIVEAWAY ~~

 

Lia is giving away a swag pack to two randomly chosen commenters. Please leave your email address in your comment to qualify. 

Want to keep up with Lia? Try her at any one of these places:

Author website | Fated Desires Publishing | Books Amour | Heartthrob Haven

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | G+

 

Blurb for Death’s Storm:

Technical genius and demi-goddess–aka Divinity–Khloe Bradenton relies on no one for help, and she definitely doesn’t need comfort from anyone other than her twin. After her parents died by the demons’ hands over two years ago, she has graciously stepped up to her place in the war between demons and witches. When a creature far more dangerous than the ones responsible for killing her parents claims he is her guardian, she is torn between her desires for the dark predator and the painful loss she has endured at the hands of her enemies.

 

One of the last death demons still in existence, Jagger has pledged his life to the Goddess Hecate. Charged with the guardianship over the Divinities, he is never to approach them, but to aid them from a distance. When the firestorm, Khloe, sacrifices herself to save her twin and best friend and becomes the prey, he has no choice but to reveal himself to her. He is taken by surprise when the need to claim her as his own emerges. A desire he has never felt before could be more dangerous than the demons out to destroy them.

 

Now Available at Amazon | B&N | ARe | Kobo

 

Need Some Help? How to Design on a Budget!

I’ve decided that Tuesdays for the month of October will be themed with budget-friendly ideas for those of us who either don’t want to spend a ton of money OR who don’t have a ton of money to spend!

(Jump back to last Tuesday’s post about budget-friendly date ideas f you need some or missed it!)

Today I’m sharing with you an article I found on the HGTV website: 11 Ideas for Designing on a Budget. Most of the advice is simple and really, it’s the kind of advice you’d give a close friend if they were in the middle of this type of at-home project. However, we forget how easy it is to change our homes with little to no money to spend!

Enjoy this article and feel free to post a comment here or send me a note with YOUR idea of how to get creative with your home-decor design budget – I love your feedback!!

Relationship Advice? Don’t Ask Cosmo!

People who dole out dating advice usually aren’t folks that are actually dating..right?

Maybe I’m stretching the truth a bit here, but I’m not the only one. Dear ole Cosmo has been outed a time or two for suggesting/publishing/advising some of the dumbest crap I’ve ever read.

And we wonder why girls these days are growing up with issues…GET THEM AWAY FROM THE MAGAZINE STAND!!

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about with diets, celebs and their DUI’s making headlines, or other “news”, we also seem to forget that magazine’s insist on offering advice for the ladies in the way of sex, dating, rituals, etc. that just SUCKS. It’s one thing to give advice in YOUR opinion, from YOUR POV (point of view, that is) but it sure as hell is another to give advice like Cosmo did in some of their past articles.

Cracked.com posted this write-up entitled “Seven Psychotic Pieces of Relationship Advice from Cosmo” and I insist that anyone who can get eyes on this does! It’s hilarious and will make you shake your head. To me, the fact that people can get away with this BS (Please reference Psychotic Tip #6, scrolling to the part about “Consequences He Can Expect) is absolutely crazy. Was this shit really in print?

Yep. I’m so irritated I said shit. I also now have a conspiracy theory where Cosmo is in cahoots with every divorce lawyer in the USA. Not kidding.

Anyway, take a read. See what you think. Then post here and let me know YOUR thoughts…Maybe you agree. That’s totally fine. I respect opinions and want to hear all of it!

I love and welcome your feedback, so feel free to bring it on!

Need A Good Idea? Here are the best ideas for an inexpensive date!!

Who says we need to be totally WOW’ed all the time?

Ok, so maybe we do need  a big “oomph” factor. However, in times like these (aka coming outta the Recession we were all dealing with) I love it when  a guy looks for other ways to charm the pants off me…literally. 😉

There is nothing wrong with researching date ideas involving more of a “budget-friendly” vibe. I love being doted on, and the over-the-top moments of an expensive dinner or surprise front row seats to a favorite concert or show, but the times my dates have really thought outside the box? Those are the ones I’ll always remember and truly do appreciate more. Nights chatting over a game of darts, or swinging at balls at the driving range are ones that pop to mind quickest…followed by surprise picnics at the beach or a dinner one night of my favorite pizza, a bottle of wine and a rented movie. And the firing range – Ahh, that was a great first date!
Apparently Marie Claire agrees  – In the July 2011 issue, they released 50 top spots and good ideas for a cheap date. Check out their link and see how many of these ideas you’ve participated in or would like to do with your one-and-only now.

Feel free to let me know how it goes or to leave a comment here with your own ideas for budget-friendly date night 🙂 I love your feedback!!

RUM PUNCH REGRETS – REVIEWS!

August has been beyond busy – which is good for me, but bad for my bloggin’!

Just so you can see a bit of what I’ve been up to, I’m going to post some of the reviews here for you to check out. I’m also extending my CHARM GIVEAWAY for another few weeks just because of the response AND because we will be rolling out some new charms in the line – stay tuned and make sure you add a review to AMAZON to enter for the charm of your choice!!

The first review up is from the Jersey Girl Book Review blog. This one gives you a two-for-one! You get a guest post from yours truly AND a FOUR STAR REVIEW!!

I’ll add more  posts for your reading pleasure as the week goes on – plus I’ll have some pics up from the Lupus LA Poker Tournament and Rooftop Party that’s happening this Thursday September 13th here in Los Angeles! I’m playing in the tourney and look forward to attempting to WIN BIG…

Want more info on LUPUS LA? Click on the link and check out a charity I love dearly and fully support.

 

Another Giveaway! Wanna win a charm?

It’s time for my big, fabulous contest announcement – are you guys ready for it?

WHO WANTS TO WIN A CHARM?

Starting tomorrow, August 3rd, I will be running another EASY contest. This time the winner will get the choice of one of my charms…in gold or silver!!

They are so cute and can be added to an existing charm bracelet, or used as a necklace or on a leather wrap bracelet (my FAVORITE way to wear them!!) These are the charms inspired by ABBY GEORGE and RUM PUNCH REGRETS. Don’t you want one of your own?
To enter, you just need to review one of my books – which I’m sure ALL OF YOU have read by now…right? 😉 – on Amazon. Any names popping up for reviews from August 3, 2012  through September 4, 2012 will automatically be entered to win! (I tell ya where to buy my books below!)

And don’t forget, I give a portion of my proceeds from the ABBY GEORGE SERIES to Lupus LA – help me help them, please?

Good luck and happy reading!!

NEED TO BUY A BOOK? You can get them here:

AMAZON – eBook

AMAZON – print version

BARNES AND NOBLE – Nook

iTunes – NOW AVAILABLE!!!!

Have You??

I mean, really. Have you?

Oh, you need to know what! I’m checking in to see if you’ve entered the contest yet!

To celebrate my first full length novel, RUM PUNCH REGRETS, and the launch of my new jewelry line inspired by the series, I’m giving away the most beautiful bracelet ever. It’s a replica of one featured in the book – it retails for $585.

Handcrafted by Sevan Avakian, the amazing talent I collaborated on the Abby George Charm Series with, the ABBY GEORGE CHARM BRACELET is a Sterling Silver , one-of-a-kind, link bracelet with two charms: one is the two-bunch palm attached at the root (cool, right?) set with a Tsavorite and the other is a dainty heart set with a Ruby.

I love this bracelet and I love that I get to give one away!

Best part? This is seriously going to be the easiest contest you’ve ever entered!! Now, how to do it:

1. Buy a copy of  RUM PUNCH REGRETS which is now on sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble  – it’s available as an eBook or print!

2. Answer the questions below – the answers are found in RUM PUNCH REGRETS

3. Email your answer to contest@annekemp.com to be entered

It’s that easy!

Want a bonus entry? Buy the book AND subscribe to my blog and I’ll enter you again! See how I did that? (Trust me, you will WANT to get my updates for giveaways and fun contests!)

Want a bonus, bonus entry? Then please “LIKE” my page on FACEBOOK!

Want another bonus entry? Follow me on TWITTER!

The more you enter, the better your chances – GOOD LUCK!!

(Multiple entries into contest are only valid barring that contestant answers the question found in the novel, as the initial entry)

HERE ARE THE QUESTIONS:

1. At the beginning of Chapter Nine, what items does Abby pack for her trip to Nevis?

2. What is the “bit of island wisdom”  on Ziggy’s taxi cab that’s mentioned in Chapter One?

3. In Chapter Seven, Abby places a bet at the roulette table on what number?

4. Abby inspects Ben’s fridge in Chapter Four. Name at least three items listed that she sees.

5. At the end of Chapter Five, Ben gives Abby money to help her take a cab home. How much is it and what is the currency he uses?

And there it is! The winner will be announced on July 4th – so make sure to check back.

GOOD LUCK!

Win The Abby George Charm Bracelet! All You Need To Do Is…

RUM PUNCH REGRETS, my first full length novel,  is officially out! So, guess what I’m gonna do? I’M GOING TO GIVE SOMETHING AWAY!!! I love celebrating  – and since this is the 2nd book in the ABBY GEORGE SERIES, I’m giving away one of my  ABBY GEORGE CHARM BRACELETS – and it is gorgeous! It’s a replica of one featured in the book – it retails for $585. Handcrafted by Sevan Avakian, the amazing talent I collaborated on the Abby George Charm Series with, the ABBY GEORGE CHARM BRACELET is a Sterling Silver , one-of-a-kind, link bracelet with two charms: one is the two-bunch palm attached at the root (cool, right?) set with a Tsavorite and the other is a dainty heart set with a Ruby. I love this bracelet and I love that I get to give one away!

Best part? This is seriously going to be the easiest contest you’ve ever entered!! Now, how to do it:

1. Buy a copy of  RUM PUNCH REGRETS which is now on sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble  – it’s available as an eBook or print!

2. Answer the questions below – the answers are found in RUM PUNCH REGRETS

3. Email your answer to contest@annekemp.com to be entered

It’s that easy!

Want a bonus entry? Buy the book AND subscribe to my blog and I’ll enter you again! See how I did that? (Trust me, you will WANT to get my updates for giveaways and fun contests!)

Want a bonus, bonus entry? Then please “LIKE” my page on FACEBOOK!

Want another bonus entry? Follow me on TWITTER!

The more you enter, the better your chances – GOOD LUCK!!

(Multiple entries into contest are only valid barring that contestant answers the question found in the novel, as the initial entry)

HERE ARE THE QUESTIONS:

1. At the beginning of Chapter Nine, what items does Abby pack for her trip to Nevis?

2. What is the “bit of island wisdom”  on Ziggy’s taxi cab that’s mentioned in Chapter One?

3. In Chapter Seven, Abby places a bet at the roulette table on what number?

4. Abby inspects Ben’s fridge in Chapter Four. Name at least three items listed that she sees.

5. At the end of Chapter Five, Ben gives Abby money to help her take a cab home. How much is it and what is the currency he uses?

And there it is! The winner will be announced on July 4th – so make sure to check back.

GOOD LUCK!