Mina Stone’s simple and colorful cooking has besotted the palates of artists and art galleries such as Urs Fischer, Elizabeth Peyton, Gagosian Gallery, and Gavin Brown’s Enterprises. As a private chef to such luminaries, she has been given carte blanche to freely experiment in the kitchen to her heart’s desire and, through the process, discovered a singular style of cuisine of her own: modern healthful dishes that pay homage to her Greek heritage and look like works of art themselves on the table, from shaved vegetable salads to braised meats.
Earlier this year, Mina debuted her first cookbook Cooking For Artists at the Printed Matter: LA Book Fair, published by Urs Fischer’s publishing company Kiito-San. The project was a labor of love that took nearly three years of work and features Mina’s own photographs of her food, which reflects its intimate homemade quality. The recipes are drawn from her experience cooking for artists’ studios and gallery dinners, so they’re easy to make for a crowd and appeal to all individuals, even those adhering to vegan, gluten-free or Paleo diets.
We caught up with Mina to find out how she collaborates with different artists on their menus, and what her fantasy menu would be for her favorite artists. She even shares with us a special recipe for her first art world dinner ever.
The art world seems very inclusive and rarefied. How did you get your foot in the door?
I didn’t plan to insert my foot in that door–it just sort of happened. I was in fashion at the time, catering and cooking to make extra money, and somehow I stumbled into something wonderful. In hindsight, I realize I was doing lots of things, with no plan, and no preconceived idea of what I should be doing. That somehow allowed me the time and space to follow my instinct, and do what I do today.
Persian rice dishes… Sour cherries, barberries, Persian limes… I am very inspired by that part of the world!
Do you think cooking for artists in their studios/gallery openings shapes your cooking style? Have you picked up any cues about what they gravitate towards and what they don't? Do you ever consult with them on what they're in the mood for? Curious about your process and how collaborative it is!
It has positively affected my style because it has allowed me to really find “my” style. I have the freedom to make whatever inspires me and for that reason I have shaped and formed my own ideas about food and cuisine. It can be collaborative at Urs Fischer’s studio because sometimes we get excited to have a theme. It will be vegan month or Persian month, for example, and that will push me to try new things and discover new recipes and techniques.
What is your no-fail, hands-down crowd-pleasing dish/menu for artists and their assistants?
Very lemony Greek chicken soup!
What is your favorite part of cooking a studio lunch? Do you have a particularly fond moment or funny story to share about your time in artists' studios?
My favorite part is the community and family feeling of a studio lunch. Sometimes we are all very quiet, sometimes everyone’s laughing and teasing each other.
Who is your favorite artist of all time and what would be your fantasy menu for him/her?
Elsa Schiaparelli… Does that count? I think it counts. I’ve read and seen everything on her and I always appreciate a sense of humor in art and design. I would make her a proper delicious Greek meal. I am not one to embellish 😉
What is the most unusual/complicated dish you've made or most unusual ingredient you've discovered/worked with?
Recently, Persian rice dishes… Sour cherries, barberries, Persian limes… I am very inspired by that part of the world!
What's your favorite museum? If you were to visit it tomorrow, where would you go for lunch?
I like going to the Benaki in Athens. They have this beautiful cafe that is one of my favorite places to sit and have coffee. (I’m not sure I would ever eat lunch in a museum… Is that bad?)
In your cookbook Cooking For Artists, you tell the story of making a chicken bouillabaisse for an art opening at Gavin Brown's gallery. Care to share that recipe?
The first and last time I made it was for that dinner! Let’s see if I remember...
Mina Stone’s Chicken Bouillabaisse
For 6 people
8-12 pieces of chicken (thighs and leg mix)
1 large onion, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
strips of orange peel from one organic orange
2 bay leaves
pinch of chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
olive oil, salt and pepper
Salt and pepper the chicken generously. Sear in a large pan over medium-high heat until nice and brown on all sides.Remove the chicken from the pan and add a few pours of good olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, thyme, orange peel, bay leaves, chili flakes and saffron. Sprinkle with salt and saute until soft. Add the chicken pieces and just barely enough water to come 1/3 up the chicken. Braise over medium-low heat until tender, about 45 minutes. Serve with a dollop of homemade garlicky mayonnaise.