Whether it was the glittering literary salons of 1920s Manhattan or the glamorous supper clubs of 1940s Hollywood, we’ve grown nostalgic for the kind of social scene where great conversation flowed as freely as martinis and champagne. You know, the kind of party where you can expand your horizons, instead of hearing the same-old gossip. (Not that we mind a fascinating tidbit now and then.) Enter Victory Club, a modern supper club that brings together friends—and friends of friends—for a dinner inspired by the culinary and visual arts. Victory Club is the brainchild of 2018 Salonniere 100 honoree Stephanie Nass, a creative chef—her nickname is “Chefanie”—and art aficionado with a gift for connecting others. Since its founding in 2014, Victory Club has evolved from get-togethers in Stephanie’s apartment to twice-a-month gatherings at chic locales throughout New York City and beyond. Oh, and did we mention that Stephanie personally coordinates everything from the menu to the centerpieces? Of course, we were excited to hear how this salonniere-with-flair does it all, so mix yourself a Victory Cocktail, and join us as we drink in her every word.
Victory Club salons bring together friends both old and new.
Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind Victory Club?
Victory Club developed out of dinners that I was cooking in my art-filled apartment for friends and friends of friends when I was a year into my first real job. After college, I was looking for ways to meet people over a shared enjoyment of art and food. Today, Victory Club has hosted more than 70 events worldwide, and it is a business with subscribing members, corporate sponsors, and a full calendar. Most events take place in New York, but we have done pop-ups in London, Miami, the Hamptons, Rome, Vienna, Nashville, and more.
A ceramic tile by artist Marthe Keller inspired Stephanie to create this beautiful ravioli dish.
What inspired your decision to focus on art and food?
Art is beautiful and creates conversation—and food does that too. Food is art, a medium for expressing creativity. And they happen to be my two passions!
So many people favor the ease of doing a quick cocktail party—do you think there’s something to be said for sharing a sit-down meal together?
Absolutely. I think it’s another level of connection, and after a dinner party you have relationships, especially at a Victory Club event where people talk about culture and trends. You gain a deeper understanding about how people think. Cocktail parties are more about creating acquaintances.
Great art, great food, and great conversation are the hallmarks of a Victory Club salon, like this one featuring architect and designer David Rockwell.
How do you handle planning seating charts?
I’m relaxed about everything! I always seat myself closest to the door since I’m cooking, and I seat the shyest people next to me. I’m passionate about bringing people together. I also think about seating arrangements less in “boy-girl-boy-girl” patterns and more in terms of how people will get along.
Ice-cream sundaes were the dessert at a Victory Club dinner featuring the work of artist Jennifer Louise Martin.
What inspires your menus?
Art! At Victory Club events, menu items are conceptually or visually inspired by the art in each space. For example, I might serve what the artist eats while he or she is painting or dishes that are relevant to the space. Or it could mean food that looks like art, like ravioli that imitates a painting, an ice-cream sundae that replicates a work of art, or a cake decorated with one of my custom Chefanie Sheets that extends an interior.
Your passion for visual arts also translates into gorgeous tables. How do you approach creating centerpieces and memorable table settings when you’re surrounded by art?
I love to use art as the centerpiece. As with clothing, I think of how pieces will work together. Also, I think about the table linens—putting the most beautiful napkins and tablecloths together can be more beautiful than the sum of all parts.
Stephanie incorporates art into her tabletop designs to stimulate discussion.
Art as a centerpiece is a fabulous idea. Can you tell us a little more about how you feature art in your gatherings?
Of course. Whenever possible, I put sculptures or relevant art objects in the center of the table, so that art is the center of the conversation, literally. For example, when we hosted a Victory Club event at Peter Mackie’s loft, we put his sculptures on each tablescape, and we put Alessi products that Zaha Hadid designed on the tables in her new building on 28th Street in NYC. Often there are art experts at the table (the artists themselves, curators, collectors, etc.), and they can answer questions and talk about specifics while pointing to the art. This leads to meaningful dialogue and a foundation for people to create real relationships, as opposed to acquaintances.
Stephanie creates custom cake sheets to coordinate with the interiors of her party locations.
Your own art is also incorporated into Victory Club gatherings, from your illustrated menus to your “Chefanie Sheets” edible dessert decorations. Can you tell me a little bit more about the latter and how they came about?
Chefanie Sheets are basically edible wallpaper. They’re thin paper-like sheets made from starches and sugar and screened with a design. It’ll stick to anything that’s wet—like cake, cookies, donuts, cake balls, truffles, or chocolate-covered strawberries. It’s a really quick way to elevate a basic dessert to a beautiful work of art. I design each of them, with inspiration from everywhere—from ceramic tiles to fashion patterns that I love. I’ve even matched cakes to the interiors at events. They’re an easy way for a home cook to create something elevated and special.
Many others have written about your knack of getting to know everyone at Victory Club events. What secrets can you pass on to hosts and hostesses about that trickiest part of introductions: remembering names?
The brain is a muscle! It needs to be exercised. I work really hard—I memorize poetry, I learn languages, I read things unrelated to what I do professionally. I just commit to learning as much as possible and learning the personalities who come to my events.
Stephanie hand-makes all of her invitations and menu cards.
How has your experience with every aspect of Victory Club changed the way you entertain for other occasions?
I think it makes me much more relaxed! And I also continue to do my invitations by hand, and then I upload them to Paperless Post when I have friends over or a shindig. I think it’s that Chefanie touch that gets people excited!
What has been your favorite Victory Club event so far, and why?
That’s like saying what’s your fave child! All special and different, and I love them all.
Playing Favorites With Stephanie Nass
Florist: Rosa Rosa
Dinnerware brand: Blue-and-white antique dinnerware
Glassware/stemware brand: Juliska
Napkin/table linen brand: My own line of bespoke embroidered napkins are whimsical and imaginative.
Flatware brand: Buccellati
Powder room candle: Kai
Powder room soap: Le Petit Marseillais
Hostess gift to give: Cake with Chefanie Sheets, recipe inspiration here.
And here are a few more stories that we think you’ll enjoy:
Carolyne Roehm: RSVP
Irena Medavoy: RSVP
Lela Rose: RSVP
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What is a Salonniere?