Like proud parents, Equinox owners Ellen and Todd Gray threw a party Sunday evening on behalf of Karen Nicolas, the restaurant’s executive chef and one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs of 2012.” She is on a list of ten chefs from across the country, and the only one from Washington. The heat and a sudden rainstorm did not deter the fun—or the food and wine—for the guests, who were treated to a buffet of salads, roasted and grilled meat and fish, and an endless supply of Chef Gray’s remarkable pan-cooked cornbread.
Nicolas, a native of Philadelphia, came to Equinox last fall with an impressive résumé that included stints at Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, California, and Gramercy Tavern in New York City. She studied at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, and shared her favorite DC “cheap eat” (ramen at Toki Underground) and her current food obsession (sorrel).
Gray, one of Washington’s most lauded and popular chefs, has his own obsession at the moment: the opening next month of Sheila Johnson’s Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, where he is overseeing the food program, including an equestrian-themed restaurant and a “cooking studio” for culinary classes. The resort has been in the works for years but was temporarily stalled by the recession. Johnson owns three other resorts, located in the Dominican Republic, Florida, and South Carolina.