The Ingredients For The Best Dinner, Ever —Straight From Our Fave Hostess

09julia_ziegler-haynes_0083
Julia Ziegler-Haynes, Artist and Founder The Dinner Bell Supper Club
Advertisement
A self-described "artsy" kid from Maine, Julia Ziegler-Haynes comes from a family that's "big into cooking." And some things never change. At 32, Ziegler-Haynes is not only responsible for some truly challenging artwork, she's also the one-woman army behind one of New York's most beloved, "secret" supper clubs. Like many others of its kind popping up all around New York, The Dinner Bell is helping to change the way we think of a night out or an evening meal. Unlike those others, however, this one offers four courses conceived, cooked, and served by someone who considers dinner an art form. So, we pulled Ziegler-Haynes away from the kitchen long enough to see how she went from R.I.S.D. to dinner, and how soggy pizza is just bad art.
Now you've got a background in the arts and even a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design; however did you wind up working with food of all things?
"I moved to New York after graduating, and, like many artists, fell into waitressing as a way to keep me afloat. I loved the pace of working a busy dinner shift, seeing people come and go. There's plenty to loathe about the job — but I loved working with food and the hosting dynamic.”
And how did a waitressing job turn into running your own supper club?
"I was fortunate to work in some really forward-thinking restaurants that helped shape the way so many of us eat today. They left a huge impression on me. I was always interested in what was going on behind the kitchen door and, soon enough, I was cooking more and more at home and for friends. Shortly after leaving my waitressing gig, I started my monthly Supper Club in Williamsburg. There, I wear all hats — hostess, cook, florist, server, and, most regrettably, dishwasher!”
Advertisement
Do you see any link between your arts background and what you do now?
“Cooking for me is a creative endeavor. I pull from the same part of my brain to conceptualize a sculpture as I do a meal. Lots of things come into play: memory, humor, and balancing color and texture aesthetics. With something so tactile, that you make with your hands, that is then delivered to another person to take in and consume — how is that not art? Obviously, it seems like a stretch to think of soggy, undercooked pizza as the embodiment of artistic genius, but I feel the same way about a lot of shit I see in galleries.”
And what are people looking for when they come to one of your dinners? What do they find?
“I think people come to my dinners for a change of routine — it’s not a typical night out in the city. First, guests don't order off a menu — all four courses are predetermined. There’s no hustle to it either. Nobody is in a rush to get you in, fed, and out the door. Dinners typically last around four hours, so people really have time to linger and interact — it's more ceremonious in nature.”
And what’s surprised you the most about The Dinner Bell?
Advertisement
“Even in a city as vast as New York, I’m constantly witnessing how interconnected we all are. There have been more occasions than I can count where people have shown up to dinners, not expecting to know a soul, and — BOOM! — they bump into an old college roommate or colleague from 10 years ago…or their ex!”
And if you could set a table for any four people — living or dead — who would they be?
“Dom DeLuise seemed jolly and festive and was obviously into food. I think he would be the loudmouth firecracker that keeps the opposite ends of the table interacting. He could also be the worst guest imaginable — it's a gamble. Sir Paul McCartney seems like he'd be a gracious guest. I'd invite him not only for his storytelling capabilities, but I think he could really get into our vegetable-driven menu — in exchange, maybe he could pick which records to play during dinner. If there was a lag between courses, Issac Mizrahi could entertain fellow guests with his Eartha Kitt impressions. Also, no dinner party is complete without some sass, preferably from a fashionable man. Oh, and Oprah. I want to hear the noises she makes when she dips into the fourth course...dessert, duh.”
Styled by Lauren Edelstein; Hair and Makeup by Bethany Brill.
La Petit Francaise dress; Kenneth Cole shoes; Noir Maasai Navajo Necklace, $240, available at Noir; Alexis Bittar Gold Sphere Ring, $195, available at Alexis Bittar, 212-625-8340; Rebecca Minkoff Honey Clutch, $325, available at Rebecca Minkoff, 212-677-6829.
Photographed at Edi & The Wolf, 102 Avenue C; 212-598-1040.

More from New York

This may be news to you, but living in New York is kind of expensive. But, while it may always be the land of $17 cocktails and unmentionable rents, the ...
We won't call this list definitive, because rooftops are, after all, all about spontaneity. And, with three summer months to get your toes wet (literally ...
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to eat roasted guinea pig in Flushing, Queens. Oh, is that not how the Statue of Liberty poem ...
Just because you aren't wearing "short-shorts" doesn't mean your dress qualifies as office-and-everywhere appropriate. In fact, a short dress can be more ...
The West Village may get all the attention as the fancy foodie haven of New York City, but that’s just fine for the East Village. All that means is that ...
Appetizers are nice and entrées are essential, but we adore dessert. For real — we feel about ice cream and cookies and brownies the way Liz Lemon feels ...
The only thing more depressing than the end of summer is the number of days between now and the next long weekend. We know: All you want is to sit by a ...
(Paid Content) When a movie like Disney's Queen of Katwe comes out, you know award season is upon us. The inspiring new film has all the makings of an ...
The Lower East Side may be best known to you as the home of rowdy, rollicking nightlife, but that adventure extends to the food scene as well. Restaurants ...
Is there anything better on a Saturday afternoon than a spicy Bloody Mary and some simple — but delicious — bacon and eggs? Didn't think so. Brunch is the ...
You've probably heard about how gritty Soho was back in the '70s and '80s, when artists flocked to the downtown 'hood in search of affordable living and ...
As New Yorkers, we take our pizza seriously. Whether you prefer thin-crust or deep-dish, extra sauce or more cheese, simple-and-plain or loaded with ...
Bars are as bountiful as Starbucks in New York City, but there are a few that raise their drinks — and their dishes — to an art form. So don’t just settle ...
Finding a good facialist is kind of like finding a good partner: Most of us have to shop around a little before we settle on "the one." And, much like bad ...