Entertaining guru Stephanie “Chefanie” Nass knows her way around a party, so she invited The Daily Summer into her home to school us on the proper way to host a July 4th bash.
What are the key components of a successful July 4th party?
A barbecue grill that’s greased and ready to receive burgers and hot dogs, an American flag cake, and really great people.
Lovely. What do you prepare?
My favorite kind of all-American fare! When I entertain, I make sure to include guests who are vegan or kosher or dairy-free…as well as those who love to indulge gluttonously.
Where are your fave East End food haunts?
Balsam Farms in Amagansett has the best corn. I love all their vegetables, really. I really like the Green Thumb for berries…and you can always buy a pie at your local farmstand!
How did you go about designing the table?
I went with a red, white, and blue theme, but I didn’t want it to look too cliché. I love patterns, so the tablecloth is a burgundy twill, and then the chargers are based on Florentine marbleized paper. Then, I added blue and white Delftware plates and Moroccan-style napkins with old silver napkin rings and a hand-painted menu. We also set out Delft-style tulipiers with red roses and Chinese-style urns with white flowers.
What’s the concept for the American flag cake?
It’s vanilla, with sliced strawberries and buttercream frosting. A classic American flag cake with all the berries takes a million hours to make, but you can buy a sheet [an edible, wallpaper-like cake covering] from my chefanie.com site for $15, and it will make your cake look like a million bucks.
What are some of your signature décor elements?
A hand-painted or handwritten menu is really nice. In a world where people look at screens all day, it’s so refreshing to see the imperfect writing of a hand. I also love stacking plates, so chargers below dinner plates look really nice. These plates are a mix of family heirlooms and Juliska. I include as many little odds and ends as I can to add a whimsical element.
How do you feel about paper plates?
I think the most important thing is to bring people together. That’s why we put all this effort and care into entertaining. If you can go the extra mile and set the table with nice plates, do it. If it’s too much trouble, why not get the paper plates? But if you’re going to get paper plates, pick pretty ones. Caspari has beautiful blue and white paper plates, and you can buy them on Amazon Prime.
What’s your cocktail strategy?
When it comes to spirits and food and design, more is always more. I’m a maximalist! I like white sangria with blueberries and strawberries in a pretty glass pitcher. If you’re mixing cocktails all day, you’re going to get overwhelmed.
Help us with conversation topics!
I love to ask people their favorite type of fireworks — I prefer the willowy kind — but some people like the dotty kind. It’s a silly question, but it reveals a lot about someone’s personality.
How did you get into the entertaining world?
Every Friday night during my childhood, we would have a really big dinner, and my mom would create an amazing meal and tablescape. The feeling of warmth and love that I felt as a result of those meals resonated. When I was in high school, I lived in France, and from that point on I knew I wanted to work with food. I’m really interested in the art of entertaining, so I love to host dinner parties, and I try to bring the style of an intimate dinner party into the events I cater.
What’s your background?
I grew up in Westchester and moved to France when I was 16. I just knew that was the gastronomic capital of the world, and I had to go. Then I went to college at Columbia, and I put all my classes on two days of the week and worked in restaurants on the other days, so that really gave me a lot of cooking experience. After college, I worked for about a year and a half and then went to culinary school at ICC in Soho, where I studied professional culinary arts.
How did you start your own business?
I started hosting dinners in my first apartment in New York — a little shoebox full of art. After college, I started doing these art-inspired dinners, and that grew into what is now Victory Club. Victory Club is a roving supper club that hosts art-inspired meals in spaces all over the world — galleries, museums, and artists’ homes. I create meals that are either conceptually or visually inspired by the art in each space. I launched my own line of baking sheets in 2016 and now ship them all over the world, from Saudi Arabia to Tennessee. It’s just amazing to see on social media what people do with the sheets. You can apply them on donuts, croissants, anything chocolate-covered, cookies, cakes, strudels, you name it! It’s really exciting.
How many sheets do you feature?
I have eight on my website right now, and I designed all of them. I’m also an artist. I do a lot of custom art and work with a lot of fashion brands on custom cakes. I recently did the wedding cake for Tabitha Simmons and Topper Mortimer, and I once did a cake for a bridal shower that was based on a Zimmermann dress. I’ve worked with Veuve Clicquot, Uniqlo, Brooks Brothers, Tory Burch, Samsung, and Sam Edelman.
You’ll be out East for the rest of the season?
Yes. This summer I’m catering in the Hamptons, and I’m doing a cake pop-up at the Green Thumb in Water Mill on August 18th.
Where do you want to see your business go?
I just want to do a lot more of what I’m doing. I would love to do a cookbook, more on-air segments, more campaigns with brands, dinner series, and editorial content. I’d love my own show!
Why do dinner parties matter?
Next to a dinner party, I don’t know what else really matters. It’s all about coming together and sharing and enjoying a meal with people you want to spend time with.
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