Raised in Virginia, Chef Gray studied at the University of Richmond and graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America. He honed his craft in the kitchens of chefs Roberto Donna and Jean-Louis Palladin, and then opened the critically acclaimed Equinox Restaurant in 1999 with his wife, Ellen Kassoff. Equinox Restaurant was built on Chef Gray’s inventive interpretation of Mid-Atlantic cuisine, sophisticated style, and uncompromising standards of excellence. The restaurant celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and continues to win awards and accolades as one of D.C.’s most beloved and innovative fine-dining destinations.
Chef Gray’s background in classical French and Italian techniques, proclivity for invention, and unflappable kitchen leadership has made him a sought after culinary mentor and an influential leader in the world of D.C. gastronomy. He has been a leader and advocate of local, sustainable, and seasonal cuisine for more than 20 years, and has also paved the way for plant-based fine dining in DC, embracing the challenge of adding vegan cuisine to his menu at the urging of his wife and business partner, Ellen.
Most recently, Chef Gray and Ellen Kassoff are leading the zero waste movement in DC’s hospitality community by undertaking dramatic steps at each of their restaurants to reduce food waste and improve sustainable business practices.
Gray was nominated for five James Beard Foundation Best Chef awards, Mid-Atlantic, and received eight nominations for RAMW’s Chef of the Year, winning that honor in 2011. Equinox was also awarded the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s (RAMW) 2008 award for Best Fine Dining. Additionally, Equinox has received recognition for excellence by Bon Appétit, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, and Town & Country, to name just a few.
In 2010, Chef Gray was called on by former First Lady Michelle Obama to kick off the nation’s first Chefs Move to Schools Campaign, and he remained close with The White House food initiatives thereafter. In 2012, Chef Gray was appointed by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to serve as one of the inaugural State Department Chefs. He is also on the board of the Norwegian Seafood Council, a promoter of healthy, sustainable fishing methods.
Among his many accomplishments, Chef Gray is the co-author of the New Jewish Table and in 2001 served as the opening Culinary Director for the emerging Salamander Resorts with founder Shelia Johnson. He was also the Culinary Director for The Ronald Reagan Trade Center for over a decade and operated Muse Café in the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Always eager to embrace new and exciting opportunities, Chef Gray, along with his wife, Ellen Kassoff, opened Manna and Milk & Honey, two restaurants located inside The Museum of the Bible located in D.C.
Chef Gray, along with Ellen, have supported numerous charitable events including Rock Creek Conservancy’s annual gala, Rescue Dish, the Alice Ferguson Foundation, the Human Rights Campaign’s Chefs for Equality event, Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation, Humane Rescue Alliance’s Sugar and Champagne, and many other altruistic organizations.