Why did you start Pinch?
Owning a business has always been one of my goals. For that business to combine my two passions, food and design, is the best perk a girl could ask for! As I was designing hors d’oeuvres trays and buffet vessels for other caterers, it became obvious to me that catering needed a full makeover. Parties are sexy, they have an energy of their own. The food display needs to be more provocative and interactive. At Pinch, we are embracing this catering transformation, and I am so excited to be part of its evolution.
How has food influenced your life?
As a dual citizen, I grew up in Paris and Los Angeles. In both cities, our households were very French, and everything revolved around food. My childhood felt like culinary school — my mom would critique the way I held the vegetable peeler and how much meat I packed into my steak haché patties. At dinner, we would debate which international cuisine was superior and how to make perfect French fries — they MUST be fried twice. My mother would cook a quintessential coq au vin one night and tuna tartare on wasabi-dusted wontons the next. Now, even when I get home after 11, I still prepare a full balanced meal, it relaxes me.
Were you always into art and design?
Yes. As a kid, when all the girls would grab the pink craft paper, I would jump at the challenge to use yellow. Both my brother and I were highly influenced by our father’s talent to fix, create, and dream. As he was designing and building our house we were mastering play-dough, legos, and eventually makitas and belt sanders. I majored in scenic and lighting design in college, and my brother in industrial design. We both now have careers fixing, creating and dreaming. Good design solves a problem and is functional. The dream is to do that and make it pretty.
Why did you partner with Bob?
Bob inspires me. His energy, his talent, his passion for the craft, his eagerness to think outside the box, his uncanny ability to make me laugh, all make it a dream partnership. Not to mention the delicious food he feeds me!
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have two feisty kittens and a chicken who lays me a beautiful brown egg every morning.
Are you ok with food before design?
If there’s melted cheese involved, then YES!tj girarddesigner | owner
Why did you start Pinch?
My dream was to take a fresh approach to catering cuisine, to fully embrace the idea of one-bite food without being encumbered by traditional silverware and plates. By combining my love of hors d’oeuvres and stationary food design with all that I have learned in 30 years as a New York City catering chef, I hope to bring catering to an entirely new level. At my last company, we set out to cater restaurant-quality food. All the plated food was modeled after top-notch restaurant cuisine, and I hired a lot of restaurant chefs to work with me (Kevin Garcia, Mark Ladner, Rocco DiSpirito, Gabrielle Hamilton,Lincoln Carson, Joey Fortunato). Now with the same high standards at Pinch, I get the chance to re-invent myself and be the life of the party.
Why partner with TJ?
TJ and I have created together for five years now, she is my muse. We have the same vision when it comes to food, and we tend to see things out of the same three-dimensional lens. She has more experience than most chefs because she grew up in a very food-centric home in France. I completely trust her razor-sharp food instincts. I wanted everyone to experience the excitement that TJ and I share after we execute one of our creations. Also, I love that Pinch is a chef - and designer - owned company; that’s unheard of in catering.
What was your best food experience?
Cooking in Italy in 1990, I learned to understand the difference between today’s olive oil, yesterday’s olive oil and last week’s olive oil—the nuances!—and how to let great ingredients shine through.
Who would you like to Pinch?
Escoffier. How did he know so much about food at a time when there was no such thing as a Cuisinart or the Internet? Also, Jennifer, my boxing trainer, because I want to make her feel as uncomfortable as I do when she is training me.
Where did you learn the most about food?
I spent six months in India teaching American cuisine to chefs at eight regional hotels. Besides learning Indian cuisine, I had to figure out how to replicate American food with completely different ingredients. It taught me to understand the science of food and cooking, and how to adapt and recognize flavors.
What did your parents teach you?
To enjoy the ride, but not to ride alone.bob spiegelchef | owner
Not only do I get to witness some of the most special moments in people’s lives, but I play an instrumental role in creating them. From birthdays to weddings, launch parties to inaugurations, it's exciting to see history in the making. And after all the planning is done and I get to see that my clients are truly happy, it's fulfilling in a way I can't describe.
What is the coolest party you’ve ever planned?
The Korean State Dinner in ’98 while interning in the White House Social Office. It was the first time I realized how events can be magical experiences that bring people of all walks of life together, and how good food can break down cultural barriers. Over the past 12 years, I’ve planned hundreds of events at renowned cultural institutions like the Met, MoMA, Sotheby’s, the New York Public Library, and the Smithsonians, but nothing excites me more than planning successful charity events for organizations like Robin Hood and New York Road Runners Club.
What is your favorite food?
TRUFFLES! Whether freshly sliced or in the form of oil, butter or salt, truffles elevate any savory dish. And now that I think of it, maybe sweet dishes too. Truffle ice cream? I think I like the sound of that!
What is your biggest accomplishment to date?
Running the NYC marathon in '09. I ran for the Tug McGraw Foundation (www.tugmcgraw.org), in honor of my mother, a 5+ year brain cancer survivor.
What made you choose Pinch Food Design?
We've got a killer combination of talent over here, and a ton of creative sparks coming out of the kitchen and workshop on a daily basis. Plus, we've got the know-how and expertise necessary to execute flawless events.
Who would you like to pinch?
Besides my five little nephews? Me! I have to constantly remind myself that all of this tasty food and beautiful design at Pinch is not an optical illusion. It's there for the taking... and delicious.karen hillburnevent specialist | partner
What is something people don't know about you?
I'm a little obsessed with wine. Everything from the history of the winery, the process of making it, the grape varietal, the region it grows in, even the barreling; it all affects the grape. For me wine is like meeting a friend for the first time. Everyone is different, and getting to know someone is half the fun.
What excites you now in the food world?
In my eyes, Australia is the new frontier of food. Over the years, I have seen our cooking style grow, sophisticate and continually redefine. Aussie chefs are always willing to put their reputations on the line. They do this by exploring new flavors, fusions and pushing boundaries. The land lends itself to the freshest of produce. And, yes, we love a BBQ, but we also love the idea of using tradition to create something new.
Do you have an accent?
No, but everyone I run into over here does.
Why the big apple?
Three reasons: 1. Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield is the coolest character I have ever met on the page. 2. I had a desire to be a stage actor for the longest time. Broadway has always called my name. 3. New York is a boiling pot of food. Where else can I walk out of my apartment and sample some of the best Italian, Japanese, Mexican, French, and American food in the world? Need I say more?
What is the coolest party you catered?
Picture this; 1,600 guests, Hockey Stadium turned Rock Stage, DJ suspended from the ceiling, food trucks parked on the carpeted rink, tasting stations from around the globe, and four large stations that descended from above into position for dessert. The theme was Rock n' Roll, and that is exactly what they did. Every single element of this party was thought through; from the staff’s black "crew" t-shirts to passed hors d'oeuvres served on glass-covered vintage vinyl records of Iggy Pop and Led Zeppelin. Such a fantastic experience; I'm excited again just typing this!
Why are you so passionate about events?
Great question. I grew up on stage from the age of four. My family loved the theatre and so did I. Fast track to today and events are my new theatre. The space, food, design, and music, all tell an intimate story with strong characters that make you laugh and sometimes even cry. That, my friends, is why!stella rankinevent specialist | partner
What makes you smile while you cook?
The realization that the raw materials that I’m using have the capability of bringing others complete bliss.
Besides Bob, who is your favorite chef?
My favorite chef is my mom. Her cooking was great, it would fill my heart, and lift my spirits. She taught me so much about food and love.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I run. It relaxes me, and at the same time gives me complete control of the world around me. I can choose to go as fast or slow as I please.
What ingredient continues to amaze you?
Tomatoes. Because they have so many flavors, they can be tart, sweet, smoky, or neutral. Depending on how you season them, their flavor, texture and color changes. They can be dried, pureed, cooked forever or flash seared. But a raw heirloom tomato is truly inspiring.
What was your best catering experience?
Making asparagus risotto to order for 700 people at the Whitney Benefit. The speeches went long and the risotto stiffened up. We needed to serve it within 10 minutes, so I quickly fluffed it up with asparagus stock and reggiano. It turned out al dente and perfect, like I had just made it for two people. It’s either that or when I cooked for Jay-Z.
What did your parents teach you?
My parents taught me not to take myself too seriously. They raised me in a small, slow-paced country, miles away from the fast city; they taught me how to relax, have fun, enjoy life and be grateful for the good and the bad! I make sure that I pass this on to Luis, my little boy.rideibychef de cuisine