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Short ribs and baby octopus may dominate many menus in the city, but that doesn’t mean local chefs can’t find love in an acorn squash. In our ongoing series, Chefs Veg Out, we’ll prove D.C.’s chefs can play with more than just meat.

  • NameKaren Nicolas
  • Title: Executive Chef
  • Restaurant: Equinox
  • Twitter: @EquinoxDC
  • Cooking Since: It’s been about 17 years now. I’m from Pennsylvania and I wanted to cook in San Francisco. You know when you’re a kid and you wonder what it’s like out west: the produce you get out there is nothing like back here.
  • Random Fact: Before I decided to cook, I dreamed of being a professional tennis player. I was obsessed with tennis. I lived and breathed it.
  • Favorite Vegetable: Mushrooms. I’d go for the good stuff—-porcini and lobster mushrooms, all those hard-to-get, expensive mushrooms.
  • Least Favorite Vegetable: Okra. It’s the sliminess. I’m 100 percent Filipino and she [mom] used to cook this one dish and that sliminess would cook all over. Although, I hear it’s good deep fried.
  • Memorable Meatless Dish: I went out with a friend to the Bellagio [in Las Vegas] and it was one of the most classic French dishes: white asparagus with truffle butter sauce and a poached egg. Perfectly done. Perfectly cooked egg. You just can’t go wrong sometimes. The classics are the best.
  • Best Vegetable Dish at Equinox: What I’m working on [Nicolas started less than a month ago] is a savory chestnut flan with some roasted porcini mushrooms, coffee syrup and coffee soil. (Q: What’s soil? A: Mixing espresso powder with sugar, ground coriander seed, cumin and peppercorn. It’s like a powder on a plate. It’s trendy to say soil.)
  • Quick and Dirty Meatless Idea: I love grains and so usually when I cook at home I do something with lentils and braised greens, broth, mustard and a little tomato.

Photo by Emily Clack