Dinner Is Served, Sort of: Meet Fashion Food

According to Bennett, pasta is indeed the chicest food to serve at fashion dinners. “Please no more salty steak,” she said. “Gala food doesn’t add to the experience or have a point of view.” At Highsnobiety, she works with buzzy restaurants like Ella Funt and sought-after chefs like Pierce Abernathy to make menus that feel new and expansive, rather than distilled and bland. “We as an industry need to keep mixing it up, finding new places, new parts of Manhattan, new chefs in the mix,” she said. “Nobody wants to go to the same place three nights in a row for three different brands,” which she noted happened to her one week at a hot downtown hotel.

According to my very informal survey, the best fashion food is not a specific type of cuisine at all. Instead, the most important thing is that it lends itself to the ideal dinner party experience. “To me the best fashion menus are where the food that’s being served looks good, it’s rich and delicious, but there’s not a ton of it,” said Stewart. “And then at the end of the night when everyone’s fucked up and dancing then you have the thing that everybody actually wants, the slices of pizza, the tray-passed truffle fries, the burgers. That’s when people pig out.”

This hedonistic approach has helped turn NoHo restaurant Jean’s into a new go-to spot (it’s where Gisele Bündchen hosted a dinner for Frame during NYFW and Gigi Hadid toasted the opening of her Friends In Residence pop-up). Owner Ashwin Deshmukh told me that since opening the restaurant for private events in September, he’s had to say no to “500, conservatively” requests for buy-outs. “It just never stops,” he said. Brands love Jean’s clubby upstairs dining room and downstairs dancefloor, but Deshmukh passes on the vast majority of asks because he insists on entertaining the right way. “We really care about what happens at the dinner and how much fun people have,” he said. “It’s a big red flag when someone comes in and says the food is not important. If the food is the afterthought, we won’t do the party. You know, if you went to a friend’s dinner party and the food was bad, you’d be bummed.”

The Jean’s take on fashion food is refreshingly straightforward—and comforting. “It’s all about big, fun American food, stuff that used to be called comfort food but now is ‘new American bistro,’” says Deshmukh. The kitchen turns out burgers, bolognese, french fries, and enormous chocolate chip cookies. Martinis—the fashion drink of choice—flow freely, and a food truck parked on Lafayette St takes care of the late-night crowd. Like the chicken pot pie, it’s stuff that makes total sense—but only if you ignore the usual fashion food logic. “Look,” said Deshmukh, “If you go too chef-y, there’s a chance for misses. But everyone’s always going to love a delicious pasta or burger. Going indulgent is the move.” As for how the diners have been responding? “Fashion people,” he told me, “love it more than anyone else.”

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