Cedar Lewisohn speaks to Brooklyn based chef Mina Stone about food styles, her new book, Cooking for Artists, and dinner parties with Debbie Harry.
Cedar Lewisohn: Tell me about yourself, you are a chef right?
Mina Stone: I am a chef. I didn’t study cooking; I went to art school for fashion. I’d always really liked to cook, and when I graduated, I started cooking, essentially to supplement my income. I started out cooking for a family on the Upper West Side. But I also just did anything that came my way. I had friends in fashion, who were opening stores or doing events, and I would always cater it. It was just a total coincidence that I ended up cooking, the way I do.
CL: So how did you start ‘cooking for artists’?
MS: It was just a total accident that I became part of the art world, in some way. Essentially I cooked a dinner party and the director of Gavin Browns’ enterprise at that time, Corinna Durland, was there. I was about 24 and didn’t know anything about anything. But they asked me to do a dinner for 40 people, that was my first [art] dinner, nine years ago. And that was it – it just kept going. I knew it was a bigger deal than I initially thought, because Debbie Harry was at the dinner.
CL: That’s always good. How would you describe the food you cook?
MS: I just describe my cooking as simple food that is well seasoned; nothing ever fancy. It’s like home cooking, usually with a Mediterranean twist. I put together ingredients that inspire me for the most part.
CL: Do you find cooking for artists different to cooking for other people?
MS: I think there is a big difference. People ask me a lot if I’m inspired by the art of the artists I cook for, and the answer is no. I’m not inspired by the art. I think the people that I’m surrounded by certainly do inspire me. I think it’s a group of people who understand creativity, and when you are around those people, something different is offered to you.
CL: Have you done a lot of research into food and art generally?
MS: No I have not. I mean I love everything about food, but not food and art.
CL: Tell me some more about your book, Cooking for Artists.
MS: I’ve been cooking at Urs Fisher’s studio for the past four or five years. I go in and cook lunch three times a week and my partner, Alex, cooks the other two days. I cook lunch for about twenty people and we all sit around and have lunch together. About a year after I started Urs said ‘Why don’t we do a cook book together?’ I remember thinking “Absolutely”. So Urs designed the book and took some of the pictures, I took all the food pictures. We really tried to make a cookbook but, in reality, it’s an art book and a cookbook. I think what is special about the book is it offers a very sincere reflection of the cooking, myself, the environment, the artists that donated work.
CL: How did that work with artists putting work in the book?
MS: We asked people I felt close to or who were involved in my life at that time. It was really personal. And it’s simple. The recipes are so simple
CL: Can you give me an example?
MS: One of the favourites is a Greek dish called Revithia, it’s chick peas and about four ingredients in it, my Grandmother used to make it. A lot of the food is like that. I’m also half Greek, so there is a solid chunk of Greece in the book.
One recipe that people have told me has changed their lives is the Greek fried egg, which is just an egg fried in olive oil, but you spoon the hot oil over the yolk so it just gets cooked but stays runny, you don’t have to flip it. I was raised on those, but people find them really novel.
Cooking for Artists is designed by Urs Fischer and includes drawings by Hope Atherton, Darren Bader, Matthew Barney, Alex Eagleton, Urs Fischer, Cassandra MacLeod, Elizabeth Peyton, Rob Pruitt, Peter Regli, Josh Smith, Spencer Sweeney, and Philippos Theodorides. The book is published under Urs Fischer’s imprint, Kiito-San.