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As Pinch food design puts it, party food should be not just delicious but also memorable. Pinch food design's Bob Spiegel and TJ Girard, a culinary expert and a design talent, united their forces in 2011 to create a studio that takes party dining seriously. At Pinch, great food comes with a twist of design, with inspiring tablescapes and creative servingware. It also comes with delicious food, conceived by a chef who fell in love with catering remarkably to 500 people more than 20 years ago.
We caught up with the two during a busy morning at their New York studio to learn more about delicious parties.
How did you come up with the idea for Pinch food design?
Worked together previously and where inspired to do something new, so we created Pinch and started doing things we liked: memorable experiences. We’d noticed that catering was falling so far behind restaurants and where inspired to do something different for the party scene. So we kept pushing and pushing food design in catered parties. Catering usually emulates what restaurants do, but we don’t try to recreate a restaurant, we make parties.
So what is the difference between a dinner and a party?
Its pretty much two things. First of all, we are stand up and we are beyond the plate, no serving restrictions. Every time we work on a concept, we start from scratch: there’s no repetition and there are no specific formulas. Its like a Circus, you dont just need the craft, you have to create a momentum. Where does the name come from? Well, a pinch can be a pinch of salt, but it can also be that extra pinch of fantasy that makes things more special. It’s like being provocative, trying to wake people up a little bit. We wanted a name that had something to do with the memory, we wanted guests to remember like: “pinch me”.
Are there any rules to follow when preparing food for parties?
Balance, from the menu to reading the crowd, everything needs a balance. Then comes interactivity with the food, it really makes people feel more at ease. The timing, its like a theatre, you don't know what to expect and its good to plan, but a party is a live event. Our philosophy is making it memorable, so everything from the first cocktail to the music etc. food is part of that mix. In a more specific way, what inspires your menu choices? We like to do twists on familiar classics. Like for example a potato with a little pocket cut out of it, filled with a mini-steak and béarnaise sauce. Or miniature spaghetti and meatballs. We like to serve dishes that someone is going to recognize, but presented in a non-recognizable way. It’s a surprise and delight combination. Our goal is to bring comfort to the guests, and recognizable tastes are part of this process. Proper food is an ice breaker.
There’s so much going on right now, are there any food trends that you are probably fond of?
Bob: I’ve spent the last 31 years of my life cooking; I’ve never been into trends so I cannot express an opinion about them, but we are living a food renaissance right now. The world is more open and informed than ever. Not that I call this a trend, but this is what is happening.
What are you working on at the moment?
We just launched intercourse, our first seated dinner experience. Probably the biggest challenge to be creative with; there’s so much that people have seen. Still our seated dinners are more interactive than a normal dinner, we try to make guests communicate. For example we can incorporate unexpected items like scissors or hammers on the table, instead of the cutlery. There are still lots of things to play with.