For Mina Stone, food and art have always paired well together.
She established herself as the go-to chef for artists when she started catering events for the gallery Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, then continued onward to cook for the artists Urs Fischer and Elizabeth Peyton in their studios, making family-style meals for their teams.
Working outside the traditional restaurant setting proved liberating: “Because I cooked for artists, I think I was allowed to express myself and find myself and nobody was breathing down my neck,” Stone says. Now, she has a brick-and-mortar home to do what she loves most, for anybody who is passing through. This time, everyone’s invited.
Mina’s, the all-day café she’s concocted for MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, New York, opens this month. It’s her first restaurant, and an exercise in paring down a perfect meal to its most basic, foundational parts: slow-cooked, lived-in dishes, a loving homage to her Greek grandmother and early mentor; a considered natural wine and cocktail list; and airy, Athens-meets-Miami interiors designed by her partner, the visual artist Alex Eagleton, and Isobel Herbold.
Eagleton and Stone are both half Greek, raised by “super Greek moms” who brought their kids between their homeland and the States. (Stone went to school in Greece as a kid, and spent the year there when she was 28.)
“We both pull from this exact same place of nostalgia and exposure and experience,” she says. And although her heritage anchors the menu, she pulls from a spectrum of influences. “I think that my Greek food—and then, everything else I cook—is almost like a long journal entry of my life,” Stone explains, “mixed with everything I’ve been exposed to.” Think satisfying snacks (olives, feta) for those in-between hours, bookended by braised chicken with cinnamon and clove when you’re ready for something more filling.
Stone is refreshingly chill about the prospect of running a commercial operation. Despite how fateful it all seems—cooking full-time in a space dedicated to art—this full-circle project was nearly the one that got away. “Spiritually,” Stone tells me, “I was like, ‘What’s the next thing?’”
When PS1 came calling, Stone was pregnant, and weighing all the reasons to decline the invitation. Then, as any artist worth their salt would, she paused; looked at things from a different perspective, and took the leap. Ultimately, she says, “It seemed like a really great next step, and an opportunity for me to learn.”
As documented in Cooking for Artists, the book she published with Fischer in 2015, approachability and understanding is more than an afterthought for Stone. Rather, it's the very thing she’s after, whether she’s catering a swanky gallery dinner, cooking a quiet studio lunch, or in the coming months, cooking for folks from the world over (tourists, museum staff, Long Island City locals).
To wit: This past summer, Stone cooked meals for PS1’s “Warm Up” dance series, which brought in a completely different group of people every Saturday. “It felt like a new challenge to take it on: To make it make sense for everybody,” she says. On a conceptual level, Stone wants to keep things simple, and let the surrounding exhibits grapple with Big Ideas: “I think you should come into the space and have some delicious food, and that is the only concept to it.”