Spotlight On St. Croix: An Interview With Chef Todd Gray

For chef Todd Gray, who owns Equinox — the modern European fusion restaurant in Washington, DC — his career isn't all about thinking up tasty gourmet dishes. He really enjoys educating young people. And that's exactly what chef Gray gets to do during the "Cork and Fork" dinner at the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience on Friday April 11th, where he and seventh and eighth grade culinary protégées from St. Croix will be cooking and serving a three-course meal to guests.

So what will they be serving? For now, chef Gray and these talented kids are still coming up with menu ideas, but he says that the three- or four-course dinner will definitely be using St. Croix local ingredients like coconut, local citrus, and of course, plenty of fish for a tropically-themed dinner.

"We wanted to do something so that the kids could become part of the experience," said chef Gray. "Kids have some amazing ideas, and maybe we can adjust a dish based on their suggestions."

These teenage locals from St. Croix were chosen as winners of a local cooking competition for the Cork and Fork dinner but chef Gray won't be done with these kids after the dinner. He said that he will also be teaching some culinary skills to the young chefs, something that he has been doing as part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Healthy Kids Initiative.

"They will be learning about the earth and about where their food comes from," said chef Gray. "If you know that, then you'll be less likely to eat too many french fries. Even though we are in the Caribbean and working with fresh fruits and veggies, unhealthiness happens everywhere. I think just knowing what the food process is and how it relates to your life is the first step towards a healthy lifestyle."

Beyond teaching and guiding the young people of St. Croix in the culinary arts, chef Gray said that he is simply looking forward to this year's food festival, which will be taking place from Saturday April 6th through Saturday April 12th with several events throughout the island. Chef Gray said that although it's hard to pick a culinary highlight of the Caribbean, he is fond of being able to buy a fresh coconut on the street, crack it open, and drink the milk.