Till's chef-owner shares some of his favorite titles



Story by Jackie Mantey l Photo by Jodi miller

Inside Magdiale Wolmark's kitchen is a cubby crammed with books--an unlikely sight in a professional kitchen.

Wolmark, long the owner of vegan destination Dragonfly, and his wife Cristin Austin recently reinvented the space as Till.

The new restaurant has a more casual (and wallet-friendly) vibe, and while the menu still focuses primarily on vegetables and other plants, some meat-based dishes are offered as well. Plans for Till include an adjacent bakery, opening this spring, a coffee counter and a gallery space.

"I'm excited to let go and have fun. Dragonfly was awesome but it was a little uptight," Wolmark said. "Logistically, it's going to be a whole new ballgame."

The James Beard semifinalist chef doesn't refer to his kitchen's guidebooks much anymore, but they've been an important part of his culinary journey.

Wolmark has made plants the star of his cooking repertoire, and this unique path left him to come up with lesson plans on his own.

Wolmark has books about how to combine raw foods in tasty ways. He has books about preserving that taught him how to get the most out of the vegetables grown in his own garden (his staff recently preserved 100 pounds of tomatoes and 40 pounds of Japanese eggplants).

He has books about umami, with tips like marinating portobello mushrooms in red wine and soy sauce before grilling them to really bring out that earthy sixth flavor.

The culinary artist filled us in on some of the books that influenced his cooking--and, effectively, his menus.

"Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life"
By Jamie Oliver
Britain's Oliver uses ingredients mostly from his garden in this cookbook, particularly helpful for vegetarians looking to use their own produce.

"Designing the New Kitchen Garden:
An American Potager Handbook"
By Jennifer R. Bartley
The author is the landscape architect who designed Dragonfly's renowned garden, and the book talks about its planning phases and design. Wolmark considers his dedication to vegetable life an investment. "If I were hardcore into cooking meat, I'd be really attached to the animals in some way," he said. "I'd get to know the producers, I'd go visit them."

"Cheese: Exploring Taste and Tradition"
By Patricia Michelson
Wolmark is neither vegan nor vegetarian, but he rarely eats cheese. However, he loves learning about the artisanship required to make it. This tome is a nearly 300-page tribute to just that. The book's recipe for pissalediere, a popular puff pastry street treat from Southern France, inspired a similar menu item at Dragonfly made with dehydrated local tomatoes and squash in olive oil and herbs.

"The Pasta Bible"
By Christian Teubner, Silvio Rizzi and Tan Lee Leng
Wolmark flips through this doctrine to get inspired by items like the polenta gnocchi.

"Tamales"
By Mark Miller, Stephan Pyles and John Sedlar
The book is stuffed with methods for making the corn husk-wrapped treats. "It's got great ideas about flavor combinations that are really unique," Wolmark said.