by leslie quander wooldridge| March 4, 2013 |
Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray preparing a meal inside their Northwest DC home.
Standing inside a dimly lit space at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray gaze at an exhibition by the Corcoran’s college students. But instead of discussing the works before them, their conversation turns to ramen noodles, grilled cheese, and tomato soup.
The couple—Gray, an award-winning chef; Kassoff Gray, a noted restaurateur, his wife, and business partner—is at work finalizing what Kassoff Gray calls a “fun, creative” menu for the show’s upcoming unveiling. They decide on the final light bites within minutes and alert the manager of Muse, the café inside the gallery that is operated by the enterprising duo. (The noodles are a no; the gourmet grilled cheese with soup makes the cut.) “We like to say this is where the culinary arts collide with the visual arts,” Kassoff Gray explains.
The partners’ creative expertise extends well beyond Todd Gray’s Muse at the Corcoran; they are also known for Equinox, the 13-year-old downtown restaurant featuring seasonal cuisine and comfort foods such as barbecue salmon and macaroni and cheese. There’s also Todd Gray’s Watershed, the coastally inspired restaurant located in the burgeoning NoMa neighborhood.
And these days, their love for collaboration goes on. The couple’s first cookbook, The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes, will be released March 5 and pays tribute to their love of delicious food and diverse heritage. (She is Jewish; he is Episcopalian. They bonded over modern interpretations of traditional Jewish foods.) “I think the underlying message here is that the table can be a great unifier,” Kassoff Gray says.
Following a series of promotional appearances for their new book, the two will work together to cochair the Not Alone Gala in May. “[It benefits] an amazing and much-needed charity providing free counseling and other programs to military members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,” says Kassoff Gray. “It’s more than rewarding,” she adds, reflecting on the couple’s shared philanthropic efforts and business success. “It’s a way of life.”