How did you start your culinary-literary organization, Tables of Contents?
Our first Tables of Contents event was a dinner inspired by The Sun Also Rises, produced as a closing celebration for a weekend-long event our friends were running called Food Book Fair. As we planned the meal, my partner George and I decided it would be cool to do a literary dinner...we were both writers before turning towards cooking, and were excited to bring those two interests together. I remembered reading TSAR in college and being struck by the food (and drink) scenes, so that felt like an obvious text to work from. The dinner was amazing. We held it after-hours at our restaurant Egg in Williamsburg, and served a five-course meal with each course inspired by a specific passage in the book: dishes of trout wrapped in dandelion greens and fiddlehead ferns, beef two ways served on a plate dusted with mushroom powder like the ring of a bullfight, and a sharp, Parisian-feeling Pernod sorbet. I was buzzing the whole time and knew this was something I needed to do more of.
I continued cooking literary dinners kind of intermittently (Their Eyes Were Watching God; To Kill A Mockingbird; Tender Buttons) and a couple years later when a friend had a book coming out I offered to host a reading at the restaurant featuring her and a few friends, cooking small dishes inspired by the passages they read. Since then we've hosted over 175 incredible authors for readings and tastings inspired by their work, published our community cookbook as a food relief fundraiser during COVID, and this spring we're launching an artists residency program in the Hudson Valley.
What's your favorite part about the New York creative community?
I've always loved how open the NYC creative community has felt. I think NYC can have an intimidating reputation, in part because of how high the quality of creative work is here, but (and maybe this is just because my contribution has mainly been to offer to feed people) I've always found on an individual level that people are open and generally just down to do interesting things, share ideas and resources, and show up to support. Also the way New York chefs and artists are willing to show up on a values level - social, environmental, and political justice issues are part of so many people's work here, not something to be separated from it.
What's inspiring you right now?
The other day I was cleaning the bathroom and came up with an answer to some question I'd been thinking on, and I had this completely banal revelation/reminder of the way my brain does so much of its own critical tidying and simmering while I'm doing things like wiping down the sink or peeling boiled eggs...way more than it ever does scrolling social media or watching TV or other "leisure" activities. As I get ready to open Little Egg — which like any restaurant can be creatively fulfilling but is largely made up of repetitive, mechanical work — it was an inspiring reframing of that work, from fearing it as a drag on my creative time or capacity to remembering that it will also inevitably be generative in ways I can't anticipate.
Also: my wife, the musician Raia Was; Catherine Lacey's Biography of X; Benjamin Labatut's When We Cease to Understand the World; local grains; the food justice group FIG NYC; mokonuts cafe and bakery; Playground Coffee Shop; Ever Growing Family Farm; Glynwood; the Tables of Contents Regenerative Residency.
@evanhanczor @eggrestaurant @tables.of.contents on Instagram