NEW YORK Looking for a creative outlet from her job in finance, Stephanie Nass started throwing dinner parties for friends in her art-filled Upper West Side apartment in 2014. Those intimate gatherings quickly grew into a dining society called Victory Club.
“I wanted to create environments where people could learn and eat together—and leave with relationships rather than acquaintances,” Nass explains. “Also, I am a chef, so there had to be a culinary component as well. Two-and-a-half years later, I’m so glad to have created a community of people who love the culinary and visual arts.” Nass, who studied art history at Columbia University, eventually ended her financial gig and graduated from the International Culinary Center in New York.
The members-only group now holds dinner parties in venues related to the arts, such as galleries, museums, studios, and restaurants with collections. Most of the events take place in New York, but Nass has hosted dinners in Nashville, Miami, Vienna, Rome, and London. She explains that the menus are conceptually or visually inspired by the art on display in each space or the food “might be what the artist eats while he or she is sculpting.”
The 100-member club includes young influencers and professionals between the ages of 22 and 40 who work in a variety of industries. Dues and initiation fees help to cover the cost of the meals.
From those dinner parties, the 26-year-old chef has been able to cook up a catering business, specializing in clients within the art world or those who want to attract that kind of crowd. Not only does she bring the food, she also may bring the guests. Victory Club participants sometimes receive invites to Nass-catered events for brands and companies such as BMW, Pernod Ricard, and Avenue magazine. Often, her clients are trying to reach an influential younger crowd, and Victory Club members fit the bill, giving the chef a special added ingredient.
For example, in April, members joined guests of Avenue as part of its ongoing salon series, a lineup of events that Nass is exclusively catering for the publication. The dinner, inspired by architect Zaha Hadid, included a chilled cauliflower soup with a “bridgestick” (a breadstick modeled after Hadid's Sheikh Zayed bridge in Abu Dhabi) and a black vanilla cake with marble-inspired icing.
The cake was actually covered with a Chefanie Sheet—edible paper that Nass developed while designing her art-inspired catering. (She got the nickname “Chefanie” from her younger brother.) The sheets, which are available for purchase starting at $15, and come several designs, allow at-home hosts—and the chef herself—to transform grocery-bought or home-made cakes, cookies, and donuts into art. “I wanted to create cakes that looked like paintings,” she adds.
In addition to Victory Club dinners, Nass is planning an art-focused party at Gurney’s Montauk in July.