Can a piece of cake be a piece of art? The slice served to me at a recent luncheon certainly made a compelling case that it can be. Almond-flavored, the slice was delicate and fluffy, but most remarkably, it was dressed in a thin, edible sheet printed with a Marilyn Minter photograph. Just like the one hanging in our host’s apartment.
Those edible, decorative layers — called Chefanie Sheets — and the cake itself, are the creation of Stephanie Nass, a financial analyst-turned-chef, who has made a career out of combining artistic references with food. In addition to Chefanie Sheets, she founded an art-themed dining group, Victory Club, in 2014. The club hosts meals in museums, artists’ homes and galleries for successful young people looking for a cultural outlet. Nass and others prepare food inspired by the surroundings.
“After college I was so frustrated meeting people and having very superficial conversation about ‘where you went to school,’ ‘what do you do,’” Nass said. After leaving the finance world she trained at the International Culinary Center in Soho and started hosting dinners in her Upper West Side apartment, where conversation would often turn to the art she had on her walls (mostly done by her). Eventually, she decided to turn these dinners into a club, where the main topic of discussion would be art.
“This is more of a cultural springboard to talk about other things. I wanted the dialogue to exist at the dinner table between young professionals,” she said.
Dinners are intented to be a “cultural springboard,”
elevating discussion above the usual superficiality.
Membership to the club is by application only and costs $100 a month, plus the cost of the meals. Not everyone who applies is accepted; Nass said she looks for “people who are very curious and industrious and successful in their respective fields.” Many of them are friends of her friends.
Art was certainly a point of discussion at a luncheon I attended, which was hosted by the art consultant Lisa Jacobs in her bright and art-filled apartment at the Ansonia. A well-dressed crowd of young Googlers and financiers sipped Prosecco and dutifully nodded as Jacobs led a tour of the art in her apartment.
In addition to the Minter, there were photographs by Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, David LaChapelle and August Sander. A sculpture of a head by artist Allen Ruppersberg was placed on the table during lunch.
“My life is the Wall Street Journal and numbers; it’s the complete opposite of this,” said Brady Leventhal, a Victory Club member who works at JPMorgan. “This helps me escape that world.”
While eating, guests peppered Jacobs with questions about the art world and admired the food. Nass based the main course on a David LaChapelle photograph in the hallway of a woman squeezing milk from her breast into a bowl of cornflakes. Hence: cornflake-covered chicken served with pomegranate seeds. Everyone giggled before they took a bite.
Of course, like any good hostess, Nass knows when you put a group of young, successful, interesting people in a room together, something other than conversations about art will happen.
“A boy and a girl who met at an event last year just got engaged, so it’s amazing,” Nass said excitedly. She is making the wedding cake.