Local News Matters weekly newsletter
Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.
When the pandemic began, Michael Volpatt, cookbook author and co-owner of Guerneville’s Big Bottom Market, did what he says he always does when stressed out. He started cooking.
This time, though, he was cooking for an audience.
“As I was making my mom’s marinara sauce, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw the ‘Live’ button,” said Volpatt. “I had never gone live and thought it would be a fun way to connect with my friends and family.”
He propped up his phone in his tiny home kitchen, and the rest is history.
“Sharonara” — a combination of his mother’s name and the word “marinara” — was the recipe (premiering on March 14) that kicked off what would become 50 consecutive days of live cooking easy, approachable dishes that anyone sheltering in place could recreate at home. Along the way Volpatt highlighted a number of his favorite Sonoma County wineries and artisanal food producers.
His new book, “Cooking In Place: 50 Days, Stories, and 70+ Recipes to Keep You Sane in Challenging Times,” chronicles everything the author created in his kitchen during quarantine. Available in paperback and as an e-book, a dollar from every book sold goes to two Sonoma County nonprofits Becoming Independent (BI) and Food for Thought.
Volpatt hopes to sell 10,000 books and raise $5,000 each for the two nonprofit organizations.
From attending fundraisers to donating auction items, Volpatt’s involvement with Becoming Independent dates back to 2012.
“We weren’t expecting it, so in that way, it was a surprise,” Luana Vaetoe, BI’s chief executive officer, said of the latest donation. “However, having experienced his generous nature, it didn’t shock us at all that he’d be donating proceeds from his book to support his local community.”
Becoming Independent supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, helping them to become more engaged and independent members of their community.
In addition to funding from the State of California, BI relies on private sector contributions to provide services. Shelter-in-place orders have heightened stress and anxiety; when its Santa Rosa campus reopens, the organization anticipates the need for behavioral support will be greater than ever.
Food for Thought is a Sonoma County food bank providing nutrition for people affected by serious illness.
“Cooking In Place” features a Pantry Preparedness section with tips on how to stock your pantry. It also boasts bonus recipes like the biscuits that skyrocketed Volpatt to fame when Oprah Winfrey selected them as one of her favorite things in 2016.
Volpatt admits to having a few favorites of his own. In addition to “Sharonara,” deviled shrimp (also from his mom) and cucumber apple salad come out on top. But he’s quick to add, “I just giggle at the day I did homemade SpaghettiOs with meatballs.” (Volpatt is also the author of “The Big Bottom Biscuit” cookbook.)
On day 51, when Big Bottom Market reopened, Volpatt stopped doing the cooking show to focus on providing a safe environment for customers. You can watch past episodes on Big Bottom Market’s Facebook page. The “Cooking in Place” e-book sells for $4.99; the paperback is $15.99. Regardless of the version purchased, proceeds to the nonprofit organizations remain the same.