Fly on the Wall: Washington DC Area Rising Stars Honorees Dinner with Chef Todd Gray of Equinox

by Francoise Villeneuve
Shannon Sturgis, Yassine El Mansouri
November 2010

On October 26, in the slick newly remodeled dining room of Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Gray’s Equinox, some of DC's culinary brightest and best gathered, many fresh from the line, for an evening of R & R. The next day they would be put to work, serving a crowd of hundreds of DC area chefs, foodies and media, but not this evening–this night was reserved for a celebration of the new class of Washington DC Area Rising Stars.

 

This year Chef Gray was a Rising Star Mentor Award Winner. And with the generosity only a mentor could have, Gray and his team closed the newly renovated restaurant for half of the night to welcome a new generation of culinary talent through its doors, accompanied by their spouses and mentors, and the sponsors that made the evening possible. The team at Equinox, including mixologist Simo Ahmadi and a slew of past DC Rising Stars, including Chef Tony Conte of The Oval Room, Chef Noriaki Yasutake of Sei, and Chef Bart Vandaele of Belga Café, served dishes to the current Washington DC Area Rising Stars and their mentors. We even caught up with past Rising Star Pastry Chef Tom Wellings who is now manning the pastry program at Equinox.

 

Slow Cooked Ribeye of Australian Lamb with Sausage Pierogi, Black Olive Jus and Cumin Crackers by Host Chef Todd Gray of Equinox
2006 DC Rising Star Chef Noriaki Yasutake shakes hands with 2010 Washington DC Area Rising Star Chef Jason Alley as Antoinette Bruno looks on.

Guests started the night with Champagne, or a glass of the featured cocktail, Ahmadi’s seasonal Orcadian Hard Cider, showcasing Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky and a housemade apple-pear pumpkin cider. A 2006 Cameron Hughes Cabernet Sauvignon, full of dark red fruit notes and a long tannic finish, from the Oak Knoll District in Napa,accompanied the Korean-influenced Australian Wagyu Beef with kimchi, and sugar pumpkin from Chef Tony Conte of The Oval Room. A light, refreshing wheaty glass of Hoegaarden, paired with Chef Noriaki Yasutake of Sei’s kombu pickle-flavored kobujime New Zealand King Salmon sushi and Smoked New Zealand King Salmon with Sansho Cream, and Ground Sesame. A 2005 Frog’s Leap Zinfandel from the Napa Valley, warm with apple pie spices and dark fruit was paired with Mentor and Host Chef Todd Gray of Equinox’s juicy, slow-cooked Australian Lamb ribeye with sausage pierogi, black olive jus, and crispy cumin crackers. A deft textural play on pumpkins from Chef Wellings, combining pumpkin purée, crunchy candied pumpkin seeds and a crisp butternut squash chip with the cool softness of a ricotta ice cream, ended the night, paired with a vanillin-laden toast of Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

 

Antoinette Bruno and Will Blunt of StarChefs.com and 2010 Washington D.C. Area Rising Star winners toasting with Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Antoinette Bruno and Will Blunt of StarChefs.com and 2010 Washington D.C. Area Rising Star winners toasting with Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chefs lingered and swapped stories about their travels—like Chef David Varley’s recent trip to Japan and Chef Nick Stefanelli’s vacation in Guatemala—and their latest great ingredient discoveries. They took time from their busy schedules in an industry where vacation time is a rarity, and came together for an evening of solidarity, to enjoy a glass (or two…or three) of wine, scotch, and cocktails, to celebrate their wins, to talk shop with their fellow industry professionals, and let loose before the hard work ahead of them the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The StarChefs.com Rising Stars Revue™
Honorees Dinner
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hosted by 2010 Washington DC Area Rising Star Mentor Award Winner
Chef Todd Gray of Equinox – Washington, DC

MENU
The Orcadian Hard Cider: Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Apple-Pear Pumpkin Cider, and Orange Bitters
Mixologist Simo Ahmadi of Equinox – Washington, DC

Australian Wagyu Beef, Korean BBQ Flavors, Kimchi, and Sugar Pumpkin
Chef Tony Conte of The Oval Room – Washington, DC
Cameron Hughes Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll, Napa Valley 2006

New Zealand King Salmon Kobujime Sushi with Kombu Pickle
Chef Noriaki Yasutake of Sei – Washington, DC
Hoegaarden

Smoked New Zealand King Salmon with Sansho Cream, and Ground Sesame
Chef Noriaki Yasutake of Sei – Washington, DC
Hoegaarden

Jambon Grillée Persillée: Grilled Ham Terrine, Bacon Juice, Parsley, Celery Root, Grain Mustard, and Baby Garlic Croutons
Chef Bart Vandaele of Belga Café – Washington, DC
Stella Artois

Ons Varkentje Met Patatten: Idaho Potato Gratin with Berkshire Pork Confit, Endive Salad, and Chimay Blue Sabayon
Chef Bart Vandaele of Belga Café – Washington, DC
Stella Artois

Baby Back Ribs and Pickled Onions
Chef Bart Vandaele of Belga Café – Washington, DC
Stella Artois

Slow Cooked Ribeye of Australian Lamb with Sausage Pierogi, Black Olive Jus, and Cumin Crackers
Chef Todd Gray of Equinox – Washington, DC
Frog’s Leap Zinfandel, Napa Valley 2005

Textures of Pumpkin
Pastry Chef Tom Wellings of Equinox – Washington, DC
Highland Park 18-Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky Toast
 

Sponsors

New Zealand Logo Australian Lamb & Beef Logo
Highland Park Logo Stella Logo

We would also like to thank Rising Star Revue supporters:
Jade, Winston Industries, Vitamix, TriMark, and Canada Pork International