stephanie nass

From Culinary School to Lifestyle Brand, How Chefanie Built Her Business

You may be wondering, “what can I do with my Professional Culinary or Pastry Arts education after I graduate?” From working in esteemed kitchens around the world in any number of global cuisines, to building their own businesses and brands, our alumni work in every facet of the food industry.

Take 2015 graduate of our Professional Culinary Arts program, Stephanie Nass. Chefanie, as she’s better known to her 70,000+ Instagram followers, is a culinary influencer, dessert innovator and creative caterer with a culinary lifestyle brand that’s growing!

Before graduating from ICC, Chefanie began hosting private dinner parties through Victory Club, a social dining club for young professionals to connect over the culinary and visual arts. If that wasn’t enough, in 2016, Stephanie launched Chefanie Sheets, an innovative dessert “accessory” that can elevate any store bought or homemade dessert. These eye-catching designs have been featured on The Today Show, Refinery 29 and even in O Magazine.

Today, she’s continued to further expand her brand with Chefanie.com, a one-stop shop for tableware, accessories, recipes, and even advice for hosting the perfect parties. With her brand set to become the next Martha Stewart, we sat down with our grad to learn more about why she chose to go to culinary school, growing her business and so much more. Read below for the full interview!

Where were you born & raised? Was cooking and food something you were exposed to at a young age?

I grew up in Westchester, New York! At home, love came in the form of food, and as a child, bliss was hanging in the kitchen, watching my mother cook, tasting every single thing she made.

Why did you choose to go to culinary school?      

I wanted to go to culinary school for so many reasons! To learn formal techniques, to meet peers as passionate about the culinary arts, and for the professional credibility that comes with having a culinary degree.

When did you decide to start your brand? How did you initially start Victory Club and what did it morph into?
I began hosting art-inspired suppers in my first NY apartment in 2014. Those meals turned into Victory Club, which is now a roving dining club that brings young professionals together over the culinary and visual arts in arts spaces. Chefanie grew out of Victory Club, and is now a culinary lifestyle brand that encompasses products, services, and media.

What has it been like to work with major brands like Ann Taylor and Uniqlo? How have you secured those brand deals?
It has been a tremendous honor to work with all of my clients. By making interesting things and sharing them on social media, I have been able to form relationships with brands that have endured for several years.

You graduated from ICC’s Culinary Arts program, but you’re well known for your cakes and cookies. How did you decide to expand?
I earned my degree in Professional Culinary Arts and always cooked savory; however when I launched Chefanie Sheets — edible sheets in decorative patterns for cakes, cookies, and donuts — I began getting more orders for patterned treats than anything else. Chefanie offers seated dinners, passed hors d’oeuvres, and creative grazing tables, as well as customized treats.

chef nass with her products

How have you grown your audience over the years?
Day to day, I strive to create interesting work, capture that work in photographs and videos, and share them online. As much as possible, I engage with my audience and other influencers to create conversation.

Do you have a piece of advice for a student wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Work from your heart — and work hard!

What’s next for Chefanie? Any fun projects coming up that you can share?
We’ll be launching new products on October 30! Every single item was inspired by the festive season and conceived to spark cheer. (Subscribe to our newsletter to see everything the moment it launches!) Other than that, we’ll be blogging our best entertaining and cooking ideas, and hopefully those will become a book in 2020!

Instagram Tips for Food Businesses

In August, ICC welcomed the professionals at Instagram for a one-day workshop on everything food business & restaurant owners need to know to reach new and existing audiences through their social channels. Taught by the leading product management & marketing teams at Instagram, we learned tips, tricks and tools for boosting our food businesses directly from the source. We’re excited to partner with Instagram to bring you this content to help culinary entrepreneurs harness the power of social media for their businesses.

If you missed our event, below are a few key takeaways that we learned from this special workshop. Plus, stay tuned for more in depth recaps, videos and more on the @ICCedu and @InstagramforBusiness channels.

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  • 80% of Instagram users follow a business
  • 60% of Instagram users say they learn about products and services on Instagram
  • Instagram provides tools for businesses, including:
  1. Business profiles. Let users know that you are a business and gain access to specific tools for your business profile such as insights and the contact bar—now you can add a button to make reservations to your restaurant.
  2. Insights. In insights, you can take a look at your activity—how people engage with your profile and the downstream actions they’re taking—how your content is performing, and learn about your audience—including when they are the most active on Instagram.
  3. Messaging. Messaging is a key part of how you can connect with your audience in an authentic and responsive way. There are 150+ million people who use messaging each day! In addition to filters for messages to better sort responses, Instagram is about to release quick replies—a way to create/customize responses to commonly asked questions.

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  • 2 in 3 business profile visits are from non-followers, so it’s important to think about your content as if a person has never seen your business before.
  • Feed posts can drive to stories (and back again!) Instagram stories can be used for behind the scenes content, and are a great way to help to drive business goals—according to Instagram, 1 in 3 stories receive a direct message. Here are 3 things Instagram suggests thinking about when creating stories content:
  1. Do it in Real-Time
  2. Keep it Unfiltered
  3. Make it Playful
  • Drive business goals. Don’t do anything unless it drives a business goal and is trackable. One way that restaurants can drive meaningful actions on Instagram is to encourage people to take action, such as making a reservation by adding a RESERVE button to your contact bar.

Panel

During a panel discussion moderated by Aishwarya Blake from Instagram’s Product Marketing team, three successful culinary entrepreneurs spoke about how they use Instagram to drive traffic to their restaurants, food products and more. The panelists included Dani Beckerman of Jars By Dani (@jars_by_dani), Claire Mosteller of Union Square Hospitality Group (@ushgnyc), and ICC alumnus, Michael Chernow (@michaelchernow), co-founder of The Meatball Shop and founder of Seamore’s. Our key takeaways from the panel include:

  • Stay true to your brand voice. Michael uses one brand voice throughout his restaurant’s Instagram channels—himself! This helps to give the restaurants more authenticity.
  • Stories can be more playful and less edited. Dani noted that stories do not have to be “as perfect” as a feed post. The other panelists agreed!
  • Giveaways can be a fun way to interact with your audience. Claire and Michael both noted that they ran a giveaway for a new restaurant promotion, and it helped to build buzz around the restaurants!

Stories School

We were treated to a special hands-on workshop to learn new tips, and some cool tricks, to optimize Instagram stories with never-before-seen hacks straight from the team! Here are some of the tools we learned:

  • Stories are a great way to drive traffic to your feed, website, and more!
  • Swipe ups are a useful tool for large business accounts to bring followers and non-followers where you want to point them to take action—back to your website, event ticketing page, or reservation page.
  • There are many fun ways to play around with Instagram stories, like motion pinning an emoji to an element in a video, different texts and colors, and even the rewind video option.
If you’re in need of more help, click here to see Instagram’s quick guide to help restaurants get started. You can also check out the @InstagramForBusiness handle for inspiration on what you could be doing to boost your social media presence.