Chef Gian Martinez, a resident of New York City with a lush history of working at fabulous places like Buddakan, is making the most of his time indoors as COVID continues to ravage our world.
His culinary inspirations and talent has led him to create these twice a week dinner gatherings which are the definition of the word “intimate”.
It’s a concept that’s been done before, of course, however Gian and his gorgeous partner go above and beyond to ensure that each guest has an amazing time while being stuffed with delicious food, entertained with lively chatter and wonderful music, and surrounded by interesting people who are the types you want to socialize with in these kinds of settings.
Gian chatted with me about how this all began, the steps he and his partner take to ensure each dinner is COVID safe and his great advice for anyone who wants to throw their own.
How did the concept of these fabulous dinners begin?
I had been thinking about doing this type of dinner for a while but never had the chance since I had a full-time job. After several months of staying home because of the pandemic, I started thinking about our friends and a way for us to be together safely. Since summer was over and the gays could eat again, it seemed like the right idea.
What is your inspiration when coming up with each menu for your array of guests?
During my first military deployment, I started cooking for my team and this is how I found my passion for food. There is this military tradition in the Philippines called “boodle fight” in which the soldiers fight over food and eat with their hands. I also wanted to remake all of the food that my mom made growing up in the Philippines. So my dinner, which I named “Kamayan Ni Biday” (which combines my mom’s nickname with the phrase “Eat with your hands”) is a combination of those two traditions. Essentially, I wanted my guests to have an authentic Filipino experience with their hands through food.
Have you done anything in particular with your dishes during the holiday season?
After several weeks of the Filipino dinners, I switched up the menu to a fall theme to reflect the time of the season. This is a plated style dinner, candle-lit and intimate. I made popovers, slow-cooked brisket, brown butter sage mac & cheese, and of course, some delicious dessert – bananas foster a la mode over a wedge of toffee spiced cake with a mulled wine sangria.
What precautions have you taken regarding COVID-19 safety?
This always started as a way to bring together a small group of our friends in a safe and intimate setting. We have a strict maximum of 8 people, and all of our friends are required to answer beforehand if they have or have had COVID-19, or if they have been exposed. When they come in they are greeted with hand sanitizer and asked to wash their hands before the meal. Additionally, all our guests wear masks until they are seated. We also bought one of those little non-contact thermometers they have at restaurants so we can rest assured everyone is feeling ok before they dine with us.
You have a super cute boyfriend that helps you out at these gatherings. How did you guys meet and how has your relationship been during these challenging months?
Aw thanks! He’s amazing. He really makes the dinners easier and as an added bonus, plays piano for our guests, which they really love. It’s usually the cherry on top of the cake. He’s very supportive in letting me cook up a storm and sometimes smoke up the house, haha.
We met at David Barton gym a few years back by the lockers. He winked at me, asked for my number and we’ve been together ever since!
Our relationship has been good because we’ve had each other. He still works a lot so luckily, we haven’t killed each other yet. But when he’s home, we really enjoy the time together. While life in general has been rough during the pandemic, I’m happy to have him.
What’s the ultimate goal you have for your dinners?
I’m a chef – the ultimate goal is always to cook for people and see them smile when they taste my food. You can’t lose yourself – I lost my job and I needed to find a way to keep going. In these times when a lot of people like me aren’t working, sometimes you just need to put your skills to use and step up to the plate and showcase what you’re about. You can’t let a pandemic or anything for that matter make a bitch out of you. You do what you do best, and I’m at my best when I’m cooking.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to throw fabulous soirees like yours?
Make something that you already make well, and make a lot of it. Don’t try to be a Martha Stewart and overcomplicate things – make it easy for you. People can smell a host in distress. Make a recipe from your childhood, something that has a story, so people fall in love with your food. And then they’ll fall in love with you. Then what do you do? You make A LOT of it. Because when you make it delicious, people won’t stop eating it.