7 Questions For Natasha Feldman

Natasha Feldman and her new book, The Dinner Party Project. Courtesy of Natasha Feldman. 

JWA chats with chef and food writer Natasha Feldman about her new book, The Dinner Party Project.

JWA: Congratulations on the release of your new cookbook, The Dinner Party Project! What inspired the book and what was the process of its creation like?

Natasha Feldman: Thank you!! It’s really been such a fun ride to have something that lived in my head in an amorphous state evolve into something tangible! From the very start, my goal has been to create a book that's like having your best friend hold your hand, laugh with you, and take away any stress or self-doubt so you can go forth and dinner party!

Being an adult can be very isolating, and studies find that over 30% of millennial women have described themselves as lonely. I think a lot of people can imagine themselves hosting a dinner party, but actually doing it feels overwhelming. I wanted to make that transition easier.  The myth of perfect hosting needs to be demystified!  You do not have to be a good cook to be a great dinner party host. Full stop. Shift the focus to the simple joys of having people over and give everyone permission to show up as they are.

And what’s it like creating a book? It’s a lot like looking for a light switch in the dark. Futzing around and flailing around until you finally figure it out. I loved the extreme learning curve.

JWA: You’re a self-described “35-year-old Bubbe.” How has your Judaism influenced your life as a chef?

NF: Most of my fondest memories growing up are connected to the foods associated with Jewish holidays, when my family, originally from New York, would gather from up and down the West Coast and eat the same foods every year: a constant in an ever-changing world. I love creating this kind of consistency for people as an adult. I love making foods that are a riff on the ones I grew up with—nostalgic, delicious, comforting food that encourages lengthy relaxed dinners where people feel like they can really be themselves and leave feeling full and heard.

JWA: What’s a recipe that every home cook should have in their back pocket?

NF: A simple pasta with a sauce that's easy to make in advance. I have a few in The Dinner Party Project, but my favorite is the Rigatoni with Confit Tomatoes and Burrata. It’s something you know you can whip together in no time with minimum clean-up and maximum deliciousness.

JWA: In 2014, you co-produced, directed, and hosted your first cooking show, Cinema and Spice. What were some challenges you faced getting the show started, and what was the most rewarding part of that work?

NF: I made this show with my best friend, Julianna. We started making it on YouTube just for fun while we were holding down full-time jobs, and as it started picking up steam, we started devoting more and more time to it. When it was eventually purchased by Yahoo, we had to figure out how to run a legit production company, pay employees, and act like real adult people, haha. I truly didn’t know a thing about insurance at that time! Having deadlines to get shows delivered while simultaneously running a business was for sure the most challenging part, and the most rewarding was being able to quit our jobs and focus all our energy on making food content. It was really an amazing time!

JWA: What do you think is your most unconventional hosting tip?

NF: Hosting tips tend to be aspirational, but mine are more practical. I tell people to create and mark off a checklist so you’re not having a stress meltdown at the last minute.  You don't want to be 30 minutes out from friends ringing your doorbell and suddenly realize that your bathroom trash is overflowing and you have three squares of toilet paper to spare, or you don't have enough serving dishes or cutlery, or you're out of ice.

Also, if the meal burns and you have to order pizza, but you've followed my tips to have plenty of snacks and beverages plus an upbeat can-do attitude, a fun and memorable dinner party is still happening!

JWA: Where do you find inspiration when developing recipes?

NF: Oh gosh, all over the place! I love eating in new cities, trying new restaurants, reading cookbooks, scrolling Instagram for photos that make me drool. There truly is inspiration everywhere. When I'm present and in the moment, it's easy to be inspired. But even when I get too focused on the minutiae of life, a yummy looking recipe, a delicious scent wafting from a restaurant, or a sudden sense memory is all I need to snap out of it!

JWA: And lastly, what is your comfort food?

NF: JEWISH BRISKET—it happens to be ‌the dish I find most comforting, the dish I love making the most, and something I always have in my freezer. Come over for brisket anytime! 

Topics: Recipes
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How to cite this page

Groustra, Sarah. "7 Questions For Natasha Feldman." 3 October 2023. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 25, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/7-questions-natasha-feldman>.