October 26, 2021

crepeshop

Food the meaning

Chef Mina Stone Turns to Her Own Family for Inspiration in “Lemon, Love & Olive Oil”

“Oh, what the heck!” This is how fashion designer-turned-professional chef Mina Stone accepted her first job cooking for artists.

How it happened, she tells me, is a very New York story: Stone originally took up catering in the early aughts as a side gig to support her eponymous clothing line. A few events later, she soon found herself with an invitation to cook a 40-person dinner at art dealer Gavin Brown’s downtown gallery. “I had no idea about the art world,” Stone says—nor had she ever made dinner for so many people before. “I looked up recipes online and multiplied them by ten.” The party served as a crash course in large-scale catering, and a seductive introduction to the art scene: “I remember Blondie was there, and I was like: Where. Am. I?”

She then started preparing all of Brown’s gallery dinners. Her cooking was intended to feed everyone: fresh greens, stewed chickpeas, a few grain dishes, and a meat-based main—the kind of food you can wrap your head around, even in the most esoteric of settings. Her elegant, unfussy approach caught the attention of the Swiss contemporary artist Urs Fischer, who, after eating her food, invited Stone to cook daily staff lunches at his Red Hook, Brooklyn studio. “When Mina came the whole food game became really elevated,” Fischer says. “It felt like she was really exploring recipes and we were happy guinea pigs.”

Stone’s home-cooked lunches became a bit of an attraction in the art world. “I’d come for a visit with Urs and the whole studio sat down together,” says MoMa PS1 director Kate Fowle. “When Mina was working there, if you could get the lunchtime slot for a studio visit, you were in luck.” In 2015, she partnered with Fischer to publish her first cookbook, aptly titled Cooking for Artists, which paired her accessible approach to food with her favorite stories from feeding the art world.

In November 2019, Stone opened her first restaurant, Mina’s, within the contemporary art mecca MoMa PS1 in Long Island City, Queens. Stone, who is half-Greek, grew up spending summers at grandmother’s home in Aegina, an island off the coast of Athens. She wanted her cafe to look and feel like an all-day taverna (the mint-green chairs are the same you’ll find in a Greek open-air cinema) with a meze-forward menu of olives, whipped feta, and anchovies bathed in olive oil and lemon, as well as ambitious daily specials like braised chicken with cinnamon and tahini.