Guerneville market owner's web series goes from Facebook to cookbook
When the shelter in place started, people channeled their creativity into home-bound projects, like bread-baking and gardening. Guerneville's Michael Volpatt started a cooking show using his iPhone.
For 50 consecutive days, Volpatt, the owner of Big Bottom Market and author of the “The Big Bottom Biscuit” (Running Press; $18), hopped on Facebook Live and taught people how to cook dishes like Homemade SpaghettiOs and Radish and Cucumber Panzanella Salad in his easy-going style. This being Sonoma County, he was all about the wine and fresh produce, but also encouraged common household ingredients, like Heinz ketchup and Better than Bouillon.
Now, Volpatt has turned those recipes into a Kindle e-book, “Cooking In Place: 50 Days, Stories, and 70+ Recipes to Keep You Sane in Challenging Times,” available June 11 for $4.99 (or $3.99 for Amazon pre-orders). The best part about the cookbook, in addition to the variety, is that one dollar of every book sold goes to Sonoma County non-profits Becoming Independent and Food for Thought. Volpatt even shares the recipe for his biscuits, a 2016 Oprah's Favorite Thing.
We caught up with Volpatt recently to learn more about the cookbook and show, which had a production team of one.
Q: What a wonderful variety of recipes. Is there something that unifies them?
A: Memories in the kitchen. The kitchen has always been such an important part of my familial relationships. I credit so much of my personal success to sitting around the table every night with my family, eating and talking about our day. Everything my mother made was delicious and approachable, and I took into account approachability when I was making a dish on the show.
Q: You mention friends in the show and book. Were you sheltering in place together?
On that first day of the order, March 18, I was wrought with anxiety about sheltering in place. I thought, “What was I going to do?” I decided to close the market. I made a few other decisions. One was to do the show and write the book. I also made a pact with my friends Earl, Dan, Jonathan, Jim and Brian to stay close. We often ate dinner together, and they became the inspiration behind many of the recipes.
Q: Let's talk about the show's tiny set. Is that your home kitchen?
A: Yes, I started in my home kitchen and then I tried filming in the market kitchen. Soon after, I got phone calls from friends saying, “This is a show about being sheltered in place. Stay in your own kitchen.” So I went back. The counter is 26 inches by 36 inches. The camera, which is my iPhone 11, was initially propped against the side of the stove. Then my friend called and said, “I'm going to send you a tripod.” That helped a lot.
Q: Tell us about Day 30, or Cream of Refrigerator.
A: Each week, I clean out my refrigerator and try to come up with something tasty that uses leftovers and veggies and other things I don't want to throw away. This is what my friend Heidi calls cream of refrigerator. There is never a set recipe to follow. In order to have a successful dish, you need anchor ingredients. That day my anchors were ground beef and cream. Then I used the myriad of random veggies in my fridge to create a sauce and made some pasta.
Q: How many viewers have tuned in to the show?
A: The show has been watched more than 50,000 times. In addition to Facebook Live, it can be seen on Instagram TV and YouTube. What makes me so happy is that it has inspired people who didn't cook before to get into the kitchen.
Q: What's next for you?
A: I am working on my first podcast series, “This is Wine Country.” I do interviews with creative people in Sonoma County and try to answer the question: “What does creativity mean to you and how does it manifest itself into success in your world?”