I love immersing myself in the food-culture in any region or city I visit, and so many of my foodie buddies are talking about Washington D.C., I decided it was time for a little investigating. The more I found out about James Beard-nominated Chef Todd Gray & his wife Ellen (a fellow SYSCO alumni) of Equinox Restaurant, the more I was ready to hitch a plane to DC. Then I read the words “Goat Cheese Risotto Fritters with Tomato Jam” and I knew, clearly, that this Todd Gray guy was my type of chef. And that was before the Pinot Noir.
Your cooking is known for its fresh ingredients, has healthy living/eating always been a big part of your life?
Yes, growing up on the Chesapeake Bay gave me great inspiration. I also grew up going to the farm markets of Lancaster County – there too I found great inspiration – its the way one should eat!
When did you begin offering gluten free options on your menu?
Since about 2002.
Can you tell us a little about the new book you are working on with your wife, Ellen?
Its basically the melding of two culinary traditions; Jewish and Southern, the book tells the story of how her Aunt Lil’s Matzah Ball soup ended up on the menu at Equinox. Taking traditional Jewish foods and bringing them way up in stature.
You and your wife are well known for your community outreach and charitable giving. Can you tell us a little about the “Chefs move to schools” program?
It was a terrific program to be involved with from the inception of it to the execution – The First Lady was so smart in asking chefs to deploy themselves to schools to make good food happen – of course, it makes perfect sense. I guess she saw so much good cooking going on in America but not in the school cafeterias and she put the obvious trend of childhood obesity together with mass produced food from a broken system in the face of America by using chefs – very forward thinking of her and we loved being part of it!
Also can you tell us about your Sugar and Champagne Charity event?
The Washington Humane Society’s 11th annual dessert and champagne reception honors our local crusaders against animal cruelty: Washington Humane Society’s Humane Law Enforcement Officers, Animal Control Officers, and Humane Educators. This celebration of all things sugary and sweet, showcases the DC area’s most talented pastry chefs. Attendees will enjoy delectable confections complemented by some of the world’s finest sparkling wines. The VIP reception presents an exclusive savory gathering prepared by the finest chefs of the national capital region.
What is your favorite part about life in Washington D.C.?
Rock Creek Park and all the fun we have there:) My son’s school community and of course the restaurants!
I read that you enjoy cooking with your son, what are your favorite things to cook together?
He loves to grill.
Can you give the G-Free home cooks a tip to get restaurant flavor?
Buy fresh seasonal and unprocessed – pretty simple:)
If we opened your refrigerator, what would we find?
Lots of vegan products – Ellen and I are “domestic vegans” – lots of potatoes right now, broccoli, beets, tofu, and like 5 gallons of fresh apple cider – lots of family coming for Thanksgiving.
If you had to eat the same item from your menu every day, what would you choose?
A good glass of Pinot Noir!