Co-Owners: Todd C. Gray & Ellen K. Gray
Sous Chef: Peter Prime
Pastry Chef: Brandi Edinger
Dining Room Managers: Randy Cole & Travis Gray
Wine Program Manager: Travis Gray
Special Events & Catering Manager: Chelsea Zinkgraf
Chef Todd C. Gray & Ellen Kassoff Gray: Since opening their first restaurant in Washington, D.C., the highly acclaimed Equinox, more than a decade ago, Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray have risen to the top of the city’s vibrant culinary scene. In addition to developing a reputation as one of the area’s most passionate and formidable hospitality and philanthropic duo, Todd and Ellen’s shared passion for inventive interpretations of American cuisine, sophisticated style, and standards of excellence have garnered them wide recognition and success. Harvest Moon Hospitality Group, their growing hospitality portfolio, includes four restaurants, two catering companies, and partnerships with leading brands and institutions. Todd has been Culinary Director for Sheila Johnson’s Salamander Hotels & Resorts since 2000, and earlier this year he and Ellen partnered with the Corcoran Gallery of Art to reinvent the museum’s café, now known as Todd Gray’s Muse at the Corcoran.
The two are currently at work on a book, tentatively titled Kitchen Conversations: Blending Jewish and American Flavors for Delicious, Easy Meals, that examines the couple’s culinary and personal lives and reveals how rewarding the sharing of two people’s traditions — and meals — can be. Todd and Ellen’s partnership in and out of the kitchen is the ultimate demonstration of their love of food and a desire to bring people together. Ellen, the ultimate multitasking wife/mother/entrepreneur, wears many hats, overseeing the operations, marketing, and management of their growing hospitality enterprises. In the kitchen, Todd crafts imaginative gastronomic delights and serves as a mentor to up-and-coming culinary talent. Together, they oversee a staff of more than 120 dedicated employees, many whom have been with them since the beginning.
As pioneers in the movement to promote regionality and seasonality on the plate, Todd and Ellen use their culinary creativity and enlightened leadership to inspire change and build community. They are among D.C.’s leading advocates for sustainable agriculture and fisheries and for humanely raised animals, and they embrace and encourage stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay area’s natural resources by supporting regional producers that champion sustainable practices. The two expect their staff to make a difference in the community and lead by example: As a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Chefs Move to Schools” program, Todd and Ellen were recognized by White House for their dedication to promoting healthy lifestyles for elementary students and their families.
The couple has been recognized with numerous industry accolades over the years, including the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s RAMMY Award for Best Fine Dining Restaurant, for Equinox in 2008, and Foodservice Leaders of the Year by Food Service Monthly in 2011. They have also garnered applause from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, Southern Living, The Washington Post, Town & Country, Gourmet Magazine, Newsweek, Time, and Travel & Leisure.
Cook with Chef Todd Gray
Chef Todd Gray: From the seasonally inspired dishes he creates every day, to the numerous charities he has supported over the years, to his undeniable influence on the city’s palate, Chef Gray’s impact on Washington, D.C.’s culinary scene is immeasurable. Many of the top toques in the nation’s capital have been shaped under his calm and patient tutelage.
His background in classical French and Italian techniques, proclivity for invention, and unflappable kitchen leadership have made Chef Gray a sought-after culinary mentor and an influential leader in the world of D.C. gastronomy. A longtime advocate for sustainable agriculture, he has worked tirelessly with local farmers to develop fresh, organic produce and other ingredients for his kitchen, including custom-grown beef.
Chef Gray has earned numerous awards for his kitchen artistry and inspired menu combinations, and in 2011, after eight nominations, he was named the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s 2011 RAMMY Chef of the Year. He has also received five nominations for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic Award.
Raised in Virginia, Chef Gray studied at the University of Richmond and graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America. After the CIA, he worked at a number of fine dining restaurants, where he was able hone his craft, refine his technique, and develop his kitchen philosophy prior to launching Equinox.
Ellen Kassoff Gray: A consummate manager and marketing professional, Kassoff Gray has achieved top-tier status among Washington, D.C.’s hospitality movers and shakers. Groomed for success via years of experience in gourmet food sales, economics, and program management, Kassoff Gray manages operations and community involvement for all the Harvest Moon Hospitality Group enterprises. She was named Manager of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington in 2007, and in 2009 she received the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR) Golden Fork Award for Front-of-the-House Excellence.
A native of D.C., Kassoff Gray began her ascent in the food business after earning an economics degree from the University of Maryland in 1986 and studying abroad at the University of London. After working on Wall Street for several years, she moved back to the nation’s capital and took a job with Sysco, the largest food purveyor in the U.S., combining her business background and fascination with food. The most productive sales call she ever made was to a young chef named Todd Gray.
Balancing work and activism, she serves on the boards of the Washington Humane Society and the Washington Jewish Community Center. As creator of the annual Sugar and Champagne charity event, she combined her concern for animal welfare and culinary inclinations, bringing together D.C.’s finest pastry chefs and wine purveyors to benefit the Washington Humane Society. To date, the popular and fashionable event has raised more than $300,000. Always a community advocate, Kassoff Gray opened D.C.’s Capitol Harvest on the Plaza (CHOP) Farmer’s Market, a showcase for local eco-friendly farmers and the city’s best chefs. She also assisted in organizing the Certified Humane Program, which she is helping to gain national attention. A longtime mentor for women chefs and restaurateurs, she is also a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International.
Click here to read Ellen’s Guide to Loudoun County. (PDF 33 MB)
Peter Prime: Sometimes in life, you just have to go back to the place where you started—which is exactly what Equinox Sous Chef Peter Prime decided to do when he left the West Coast to settle down again in Washington, DC. After working for two-and-a-half years as a chef at San Francisco’s Los Altos Grill and teaching at the Art Institute of California–San Francisco, Peter found out about an opportunity to become sous chef at Equinox, working under the tutelage of revered Chef Todd Gray.
“I wanted to work with one of the best chefs in DC,” Peter said in reference to Todd. “He really adds something special to Equinox—in that it’s a chef-owned restaurant.”
Peter became inspired to cook after seeing the joy his mother would get from preparing meals for the family when he was a kid. But he never thought then than he would someday develop that same zeal for the art. While studying accounting at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Peter secured a summer internship with Aramark, where he spent a few weeks in the accounting department, a few weeks in sales, and a few weeks in the kitchen. The kitchen segment is what solidified his decision to become a chef.
“I gained real, hands-on experience and learned a lot in a short amount of time from a thoroughly trained chef,” he said.
Prior to moving to San Francisco, Peter worked at several restaurants in Washington including Leopold’s Kafe, Poste Moderne Brasserie and Citronelle. He brings to Equinox more than 7 years of professional experience, coupled with formal and ongoing training. Peter, who received a culinary diploma from the French Culinary Institute–New York, said that while he is passionate about creating magnificent food, he equally enjoys seeing the smiles on the faces of Equinox’s guests. Another element Peter enjoys about his position at Equinox is the freedom to experiment with different types of food and cooking techniques.
But even if Peter wasn’t a chef, he’d still be working in the realm of hospitality as a food critic, a recipe developer for other chefs, or a restaurateur. And seeing Chef Gray in the role as an owner is one of the main things that attracted Peter to Equinox, as spearheading his own restaurant is a long-term goal.