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