News & Politics

What Chefs’ Kids Eat

We peek inside their brown bags.

When it comes to lunch, Ellen Gray, who with her husband, chef Todd Gray, owns Equinox restaurant in downtown DC, shudders at the prospect of sending their five-year-old son off with packaged products like Lunchables and Capri Sun. "Look at the ingredients," she says. "They're not real."

Which made us wonder–what do chefs send their kids off to school with? With visions of crustless prosciutto-and-fig sandwiches in our heads, we peeked inside the brown bags that local chefs pack for their kids.

A typical lunch for Harrison Gray might be a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich made with sugar-free Welch's grape jelly on honey whole-wheat bread, or a grilled peanut-butter-and-cream-cheese quesadilla; carrot sticks with peanut butter; Smartfood popcorn; Nutter Butter cookies; and a minibottle of water.

Chef Cathal Armstrong and wife Meshelle, who own Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, send six-year-old Eve off to first grade with an Irish bacon sandwich with cheddar cheese, lettuce, and homemade mustard; strawberries tossed with yogurt, lemon zest, and sugar; Cadbury milk-chocolate buttons from Ireland; and milk.

Chef Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel's in DC's West End found a creative solution to his six-year-old son Marcel's Lunchables envy. He fills a plastic box segmented with dividers from the Container Store with pepper-jack cheese, crackers, and fruit. Marcel might also get a frozen peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich that thaws by lunchtime, Whole Foods applesauce tubes, and a Clif or Luna energy bar.

In Bethesda, Jaleo executive chef JohnPaul Damato says that classmates try to buy the lunches he and his wife pack for son Tyler, 14, and daughter Parker, 9. Favorites include pasta salad; cured sausages, cheeses, olives, carrots, and cucumbers; melon and berries in summer or apples and bananas in winter; and Santa Cruz organic lemonade juice boxes.

Chef Andrew Evans, who owns the Inn at Easton on the Eastern Shore with his wife, Australian expat Liz, says smoothies in a thermos are "a great way to get fruit into your kids." They pack daughters Gabby, 7, and Lilly, 3, Aussie beans-on-toast kits–toast spread with butter and vegemite with a thermos of warm baked beans; steamed Chinese barbecue-pork buns; and Minute Maid pink-lemonade juice boxes.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.