Chef Interview: Equinox’s New Pastry Chef Brandi Edinger
Last week co-owners Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff-Gray announced the appointment of Brandi Edinger as their new Pastry Chef at Equinox restaurant. The anticipation of who would fill the shoes of this critical spot was built up once it was announced that Equinox’s pastry chef, Tom Wellings had returned to mentor Fabio Trabocchi at Fiola. The Grays were instantly won over by Edinger’s fighting spirit (who says that chocolate can’t invoke a fighter’s spirit?!). The Baltimore, MD native has willingly stepped into the fierce Washington, DC market and she is ready to compete. Having taken top titles competing at several regional pastry competitions, Edinger brings an aggressive yet elegant approach to the dessert menu at Equinox Restaurant. After just one bite, you will be won over, as well.
Edinger got an early start in the kitchen cooking by her grandmother’s side. Edinger says, “My love for food began at a young age. When I was little my grandmother owned a restaurant and I spent a lot of time with her. We would go places and find something we like and she would say, ‘we have to figure this recipe out. I’ll never forget going to Dutch Wonderland and walking through the little bake shop on the way out, I had a cookie that I tasted so good (must have been, cause I still remember it!). When we got home my grandmother called them to ask for the recipe. Turned out to be nothing more than a snickerdoodle, but that’s the kind of experience I want people to have when they eat my desserts…one that they never forget!!”
After completing her culinary training at the Hospitality Culinary Arts & Tourism Institute in Glen Burnie, MD in 2005, she received a scholarship to intern in Italy. Edinger says, “After working in Italy, it was really hard to come back to America. It’s very different. Coming from a place where the local fishermen bring in their catch of the day, several kilos of fresh Ricotta and mozzarella were just made for service, the sfusato lemon is growing 15 feet away or pastry is candying rose petals for garnish because the garden outside of the kitchen is in full bloom. Well, there may not be lemons growing 15 feet away, but for me Equinox was the next best step forward. I know that every time I compress a peach, roast a plum, or make berry preserves, it’s not only from a local farm, but it’s helping support our local farmers and that’s important to me.”
Upon her return stateside she was hired at The Maryland Club in Baltimore, MD. She also served as a pastry chef at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD. Her prowess has won her several local titles. Most recently, Brandi tied for first place at the 20th Annual Chocolate Affair where she competed with 50 of Baltimore’s best restaurants, caterers and chocolatiers. In April 2011, she took home first place at the A Night O’Chocolate competition in Washington, DC which focused on showcasing the talent of women pastry chefs from the DC area.
Wanting to take her talent to the next level, Brandi joined Equinox in May 2012. Edinger says, “In just the 2 months I have been at Equinox, I can most definitely see why it has such a reputation, everything is held to the highest standard…including Chef Nicolas. You can feel the love in the kitchen as each plate is precisely put together using the freshest of the fresh ingredients. This is one of the many reasons I am so excited to work with the Equinox family, we all share the same love of food and the desire to put our best on the plate. I can honestly say that I have already learned a lot in the short time I have been here and I credit that to working with such talented people.”
Now she is surprising diners with sweet endings like Greek Yogurt Zabaglione with Pistachio sponge cake and berries served with a petite meringue. Brandi also gets playful with and recreates one of her favorite childhood nostalgic treats, such as the Dark Chocolate Coconut Bar, her take on a ‘Almond Joy’ with layers of almond shortbread, creamy coconut filling, and dark chocolate cremeaux, served with creamy coconut milk sorbet, amaretto soaked bing cherries and almond butter powder. Edinger says, “There’s just something so gratifying when someone eats a piece and says ‘this is better than the real thing!’”. Edinger has also created a deconstructed peach cobbler, compressing peaches in a honey bourbon syrup which gives it amazing flavor and texture.
She says, “I like to take classic desserts and put my own spin on them. Most people tend to stick with what they know, so while it is important to step outside of the box, there will be no goat cheese ice cream for me! Right now I’m having fun re-creating things from my childhood.” Of her future at Equinox, Edinger says, “I can see the love on the plate. I’m excited to be part of the culture of Equinox”.
Be sure to stop into Equinox, located just steps from the White House to indulge in Food & Wine’s Best New Chef, Karen Nicolas’s latest menu with Edinger’s sweet endings.