am·bi·ance also am·bi·ence (mb-ns, ä-byäs) n. The special atmosphere or mood created by a particular environment:
You may have heard me say the word "ambiance" several times in this episode. It's important to understand that the best dinner parties consist of covering all of the five senses: Touch, Taste, See, Hear, and Smell. This is a major challenge for the chefs on the show simply because they are focusing mostly on how the food tastes and smells and not on the entire environment in the dining room and how it feels and looks. For many of the chefs, this is the first time in their lives they are faced with this challenge, which is why I am brought in to try and execute any vision they come up with. I do this every day for Fortune 500 companies, brides, and non-profit organizations.
Coming up with a vision is also a challenge in itself. Though Joel won the competition (Congrats Joel!), he had an incredibly hard time envisioning the entire environment and expressing to me what he wanted his dinner party to look and feel like. He was hyper-focusing on the ingredients that were going into the menu and I came away from our short time together with two things: he wanted to use fresh herbs as part of the centerpiece on the table and that he wanted there to be an interactive game element that involved the asking of the question “If you were a teacher, what would you teach?” I liked these elements a lot but the room needed more to really WOW Rocco and his guests. I asked Joel if he was ever able to open his dream restaurant with his wife, what would it look like? He did have a little more insight to give me there, but it was vague….
One of the hardest parts of my job is to draw a client’s creative vision out of them so that I can then take it and turn it into an awesome and beautiful experiential environment.
I usually end up becoming their therapist by the end of the day!! Folks need to dig deep to find their inner creative rock star for sure.
I knew Joel had something special in him, so I really wanted to take this high school teacher and turn him into a master of his own environment and not only stay in his comfort zone of the kitchen.
Joel’s desire for a perfect meal and a clean “untacky” ambiance inspired me to create some much needed magic in his dining room on Rocco’s terrace.For the interactive game element, I provided mini chalkboards so his guests could write the answer to his question as they doubled as place cards for each guest. This is a great conversation starter, which acts as an important element to any successful dinner party.
I decided to make Joel’s herbs and spices centerpiece a little more stylized by creating different heights on the table with organic tree stumps and by placing the herb and organic elements inside of beautiful glass domes or terraniums.
I wanted to create gorgeous lighting by bringing in a cool artisanal chandelier that would create a nice focal point in the room that consisted of real antique milk bottles lit with filament light bulbs with a wrought iron base.
I thought the room needed another WOW factor so in celebrating Joel’s literal sense of design I created a “wall of spices” by using old wooden ladders, bolting them to the wall and them stacking them with masses of mason jars with different colored spices so the wall had texture and variety.
All in the wall, I felt the room came out gorgeous and obviously Joel’s cooking matched the ambiance perfectly.
I was incredibly and pleasantly surprised by how much King led with his heart and his passion for ambiance concerning his concept for his dining room.
King had no problem expressing to me that he wanted Rocco and his guests to be “transported” into a beautiful and exotic place for his dinner party.
If anything, King had too many ideas to fit into one environment, but honestly I had a lot to work with from King. Within moments I had a clear vision of what his room should look and feel like.
King was so specific down to every detail: the tropical fruit, the cool blue tones in the room, the VESPA!!! And the wonderful entertaining aspect of allowing the guests to kick their shoes off literally and enjoy the evening in ultimate comfort. I decided to add a few elements in the room that would bring King’s vision full circle. I replaced the existing curtains with gorgeous organza silk blue panels. I replaced the existing wall art with a custom made abstract painting of an ocean view and I put a WOW into the rambling landscape centerpiece by adding submersible LED lights to the orchid arrangements so they would really glow during the dinner. I also used real tropical leaves instead of placemats or a table linen. I used the existing lights in the informal dining room and wrapped them with a cool blue grass paper so they looked like I had made custom tropical lamp shades for the lights.
This must have been a difficult decision for Rocco to make on this episode. Both chefs had major passion for what they love to do and their styles were completely different which was a real blast for me!
Bring the party on people!!! I am looking forward to many more challenges out of the kitchen and into the dining rooms!!
Feel free to ask specific questions regarding the creative process for these rooms and how I got to the finished product.
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