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Kiss the

Kiss the


How a new memoir (and homemade doughnuts) are bridging the culinary divide.

When lesbian chef Gillian Clark opened Colorado Kitchen in Washington, D.C.'s Brightwood neighborhood in 2001, the only other restaurant where you could sit down to eat was McDonald's. There were, however, plenty of places to order carryout through bulletproof glass.

"I was disgusted by it," says the Long Island native, whose memoir, Out of the Frying Pan: A Chef's Memoir of Hot Kitchens, Single Motherhood, and the Family Meal, hit bookstores this October. "They prepared the food way in back and out of sight. I thought, Who's cooking it, and is it squirrel?"

Six years later, Colorado Kitchen, which Clark owns with her partner, Robin Smith, is something of an oasis in a neighborhood many still consider "sketchy." Inspired by her grandmother's kitchen, the eatery has a black-and-white checkered floor, red vinyl chairs, a tin ceiling, and cloth napkins. The bathroom walls are papered with recipes for cold-water sponge cake and buttermilk biscuits. And the kitchen -- unlike those of her armored neighbors -- is wide open, so six days a week (Monday is her only day off) patrons can watch Clark make culinary magic.

Clark's food has been described as "contemporary American," but she prefers to explain it as what you'd get "if Betty Crocker went to cooking school." Incidentally, the chef honed her skills at L'Academie de Cuisine in Maryland. "It's all the things my parents and grandparents cooked for me; I re-create a lot of my good food memories." That means meat loaf with truffle gravy, homemade doughnut holes, codfish cakes, and what's arguably the best burger in town.

Clark isn't just transforming the culinary landscape of D.C. -- she's bridging the cultural divide too.

"As a federal city, the population is very aware of their civil rights in society; being a lesbian chef is just not an issue," says Clark. Oddly, race is a different story. "In D.C. eating is usually pretty segregated. Everyone comes together at Colorado Kitchen. An old church lady is sitting next to a 20-year-old with tattoos, Latinos, Asians. It's very diverse and multicultural."

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