From Hollywood to Home: In the kitchen with Actress Riley Voelkel


June 12, 2024

Carly Long

While exploring the multifaceted life of actress Riley Voelkel — known for her breakout role in the Oscar-nominated film “The Social Network,” followed by a string of hit series such as “The Mentalist”, “Glee”, “American Horror Story”, “Hightown”, and “The Originals” — she revealed a passion for the simple joys found in everyday moments, well beyond the glitz of Hollywood. Our conversation carried into the heart of her home, the kitchen, as Riley shared that what transcends the spotlight is the solace and excitement she finds in the art of cooking, sharing laughter, wine, and good food with loved ones. We uncovered the origins of her culinary journey, the secrets behind her famed charcuterie boards, and the dishes that define her style and personality. 

A portrait photo of actress Riley Voelkel wearing a crisp white, collared button up shirt with her hair down and natural makeup.
Riley Voelkel – Photography by Tyler Patrick Kenny

In the Kitchen with Riley Voelkel

In our last interview about your incredible acting career, we discussed staying present and the small moments that you look forward to each day or that bring you the most joy. What are some of those?

  • My morning tea. 
  • Listening to my favorite music. 
  • Cooking, laughing, and drinking wine with friends. 
  • And of course, cuddles from my cat Quentin. 
  • The small moments are often my most joyful. 

I love this delve into your personal life, off the screen. Let’s talk about that third joy — You have a known passion for cooking — what initially sparked that?

About five years ago, my husband and I decided to start applying a healthy diet to our lives. We really noticed a difference in how we felt when we cooked our own meals at home and avoided processed foods. Not only did we feel better, but cooking together became a great time to bond. We put on music, drink wine, and just really enjoy cooking together. I’m still a beginner, but now that we cook most of our meals, I’ve really found a love for it. 

On this note, we must talk about your charcuterie boards. Can you share some of your favorite tips or combinations for making a memorable board, from selecting ingredients to arranging them aesthetically?

I love a charcuterie board! It’s the perfect thing to make when bringing something to someone’s house or when you have company. 

  • Tip one, start with the cheese! I like to walk through the cheese section at the grocery store and pick out interesting cheeses that I’ve maybe never tried before. I arrange the cheese on the board first and use a mixture of soft and hard cheeses. 
    • Next, I arrange the meats, usually a mixture of salamis and prosciutto. I like to fold the prosciutto into little “flower” bunches. 
    • Next, I add all the pickled items like cornichons, olives, and red drop peppers. 
  • Tip two, have a variety of colors and flavors! 
    • I then fill in any open space with the “goodies.” This can be almost anything — honey comb, blackberries, green grapes, nuts, little chocolates. 
    • And lastly, I add my garnish. I love using baby’s-breath, fresh sage, or edible flowers. 
    • Add some crackers on a side plate and you’re done! 
  • Tip three, be creative and have fun with it, there’s no right way.
A portrait photo of actress Riley Voelkel wearing a crisp white, collared button up shirt with her hair down and natural makeup with her bands reaching up towards her neck.
Riley Voelkel – Photography by Tyler Patrick Kenny

What are some unexpected flavor combinations or pairings that you’ve discovered while experimenting with charcuterie boards? 

Hot cherry peppers and goat cheese are so good together. The goat cheese cuts the spice and is a perfect pairing.  You can get the peppers stuffed or get a pepper jelly, which is delicious with almost any soft cheese. 

I also love truffle anything. Truffle cheeses and truffle almonds are regulars on my boards and pair great with meats. 

Also, I recently discovered that bleu cheese is amazing with something sweet. A fresh berry, for instance, or a port wine.   

If you had to choose one dish that best represents your cooking style and personality, what would it be, and what makes it special to you?

I love an easy but delicious “sheet pan meal,” which means you only bake with one sheet pan (less dishes). 

One of my favorites is a Harissa Chicken recipe from “Half-Baked Harvest.” It has a great wholesome mix of flavors with Moroccan Harissa seasoning and Mediterranean ingredients like olives, feta, and chickpeas. I love it because it’s easy to make in between a busy schedule, but has such amazing flavors you would think it took all day.

I like recipes that give you more time to spend with the people you are eating with.

I have a lot of great memories of serving it up family style and dipping naan bread into the sauce over great conversation with friends.   

Have you ever had a culinary experience or tried a dish while traveling that left a lasting impression on you? Or can you share about a favorite personal or family recipe? 

I have had amazing meals in the different places I’ve traveled to — and it’s almost always a memorable experience. However, the meals that leave the most lasting impression on me are always home-cooked meals. 

My Oma used to make the most amazing German dinners and I still dream about them. She had a recipe called “Strudla,” which was a doughy dumpling-type noodle and she poured homemade chicken and gravy over it. It was my perfect comfort meal and holds so many great memories. Unlike me, who follows recipes, she just knew how to make it.

I think sometimes those are the best meals, the ones without a recipe, just family tradition. 

Are there any cooking or culinary projects you’re currently working on or hoping to explore in the future?

I am still very much at the beginning of my culinary journey, but I learn something new each time I cook. Just like with anything I love, I hope to continue to learn and grow in my cooking abilities. 

Currently, I am a recipe follower and very Type-A about it…so, I hope in the future I will have more confidence in experimenting and building my own recipes.   

*This interview has been edited for clarity.

To keep up with Riley, follow her on Instagram, X, or TikTok.


Written by Carly Long |  @bycarlylong

Photography by Tyler Patrick Kenny | @tylerpatrickkenny

Styling by Alison Hernon | @718blonde

Hair by Corey Tuttle | @coreytuttlehair

Makeup by Liz Olivier