Bored of attending regular dinner parties with your usual friends? Well, now you have the option to enter a world filled with art, influencers and magic in rare and unknown spaces. Oh, and there will be food.
Founder, Stephanie Nass or “Chefanie” as some call her, hopes to bring individuals together through the power of culinary arts. Given our busy corporate lifestyles, Stephanie found a lag in the market when it came to meeting interesting people while conversing over art. To fill this gap, she has successfully combined food, art, love, friendship, and strangers to create Victory Club, your new kind of supper club that has become increasingly popular in New York City and overseas.
Born and raised in New York, Stephanie has enjoyed cooking for as long as she can remember. When she was 16 years old, she moved to France, bonjour, to live with a French host family in a rural community. However to her surprise, her host family, unlike most French people tended to eat a lot of processed food. “So I found myself not really eating that and cooking for myself. That’s kind of when I caught the bug and couldn't stop cooking.”
“I found myself cooking in every free second and my time in California really defines how I cook today”
A recent graduate from Columbia University, Stephanie studied Art History. Leaving her paintbrush behind in New York, she moved to Silicon Valley upon graduation to pursue a career as a financial analyst. "I was really teaching myself on the job and wanted to see what it's like to grow a company from the financial side." But, she never stopped cooking and once again caught herself fastened in an apron at one of her favorite bakeries. “When I was working 20-hour days, I realized that I couldn't do both, so that only lasted a short time.” After working as a financial analyst for a year and a half in the California and New York offices, Stephanie realized where her true passion lied and it wasn't in the books, but with the cooks. As a result, she enrolled in cooking classes at night at the International Culinary Center in SoHo.
FROM FARM TO MARKET
It was on a late fall evening in 2014 that Stephanie hosted a dinner party in her apartment and welcomed friends to bring a plus one as a way to meet new people. The night revolved around discussing Stephanie’s personal art collection, experiencing her delicious meal and making new friends. There was never an aha-moment for Stephanie, but this was the day that Victory Club would become a reality.
So how does it work you might wonder? "The way we work with partners is that we look at their art and then think about how we can incorporate it into food. I love to host the events in artists’ homes because you get a sense of how the artist works, how they live and what inspires them. However, from time to time we will host in galleries.”
When we met Stephanie on a mid winter afternoon, her current muse was Kristin Simmons, an artist from New York City and a fellow classmate from Columbia University, whose art focuses on the second amendment and gun control. "The guns are definitely my signature piece. Looking at political issues, gun rights are such a hot topic right now."
Kristin previously worked in advertising at BBDO and came from a very corporate upbringing, one that did not support her decision to become a “struggling” artist. “I was trained in a very classical manner but in college, I developed my own aesthetic and started moving into the pop realm. I was very inspired by toys, symbols of childhood innocence blended with corrupt issues. I deal with type a lot too, which comes from my background in advertising; using language to make connections between things that seem disparate.” Despite her family’s concerns, Kristen created a personal website, exhibited at art fairs, showcased at gallery shows and promoted it all on social media—finally seeing her labor of love pay off.
Kristin’s pieces typically range between $1,000 to $5,000 for a painting and $250 to $1,500 for prints. "I want to make sure that people our age can afford to start building their own art collection."
WHAT’S IN A NAME
“My blog in college was called Folded Victory and that came from an Elizabeth Bishop poem, one of my favorite poets. She writes about folded sunsets, a picture you would fold and put in your back pocket. So, I was really interested in daily folded victories and that became the name of my blog. And when I began this project, I thought it would be called the Folded Victory Supper Club, but that was too cumbersome as a name so it just became The Victory Club. Sometimes at our events, we will do poetry readings and celebrate everyday victories in art and in people and the name echoes that."
“People leave feeling like they have made relationships, not simply connections and acquaintances”
Since past January, Victory Club has hosted over 30 events worldwide including London, Miami, Nashville and New York. “We have grown so much so fast, BMW just sponsored us.” What has helped spread the word and increase members to subscribe is mainly word of mouth marketing. "The brand is a lot of me, so whenever I meet people and tell that what I am doing, they're really interested because it is so much of a manifestation of my personality." Besides the beautiful art, homey space and great food, majority of the people who attend these dinner parties are entrepreneurs and heavy influencers across different industries. “It’s great because this project attracts really cool people, so even if it's a small group, it's quite charged and powerful.” Stephanie has also been successful in match-making at these events so ditch your tinder app, people, it's all about joining the “club.”
When launching Victory Club, the biggest obstacle for Stephanie was getting taken seriously. “I was starting a business at 23 and if you looked at my life it almost seems like all of a sudden I became a cook, but in my mind, it made perfect sense. Getting taken seriously as a person and as a business was really hard and I think that’s what I fought for all of 2015.”
“I don't think you can go from zero to one hundred overnight. It’s about gradual growth”
In terms of building a business, the most important piece of wisdom she received was from Alexander Gilkes, CEO of Paddle8, who said "build your brand and business for you as the target customer, so whenever you do anything always think: if you were paying for this, is this what you would want to see?” Stephanie tells us, “I think this is very important because in the very least you create a cohesive brand with a strong sensibility. It is also important to believe in your company and then others will too. Maybe not everyone, but you will never appeal to everyone.”
Interested in attending the next event? Well, GET YOUR BRITISH ACCENTS ON! Victory Club is partnering with ChefXChange in London on March 24.
If you can’t hop to London for this event, consider becoming a member by applying online and get instant access to exclusive dinner parties for a monthly fee between $35-$50. Non-members pay $100 for tickets to these events. Let them know we sent you over, Bon Appetite!