Do the Chefs' Signature Dishes Translate to Signature Design Style?

Jes Gordon can't help but wonder if she could create the chefs' design visions by simply looking at their signature dishes.


I often wonder after watching an episode, if I could design the chefs' rooms just by seeing and tasting their signature dishes.

The answer is "yes" I believe I could…. As a Designer, I like to test myself by searching for people’s signature styles without them even knowing it. Sometimes the answers come to me by looking at their clothes, visiting their homes, and seeing what type of furniture they have and especially by seeking out any piercings, tattoos, or any other form of self expression they may have; in this case cooking….

It’s a pretty intense experience these chefs are having on this show. When you think about it, cooking and designing is one of the most vulnerable positions a creative person can put themselves in and the added pressure is the awesome ca$h prize and of course Chef Rocco himself. How do you make this once-in-a-lifetime decision: putting it all on the table food-wise and all over the room décor-wise in very little time? Some of the confidence comes from experience, and it is apparent to me when someone is experienced and confident about what he or she is doing and in this case, both Corey and Nicole were incredibly secure in their design and cooking decisions. I did not have to try to extract design concepts from either chef and the challenge lies in just getting everything produced in time for their parties. 

At one point in my short discussions with Corey, he actually requested a real piece of farm machinery to be placed in his terrace dining room country environment. I’m good at what I do, but it wasn’t going to happen in the amount of time I had! The idea of farm machinery lends to a lot of different avenues of expression other than actual pieces of farm equipment! I brought in cool vintage photos of farms, families, and, yes, machinery to grace the walls of the Terrace and I don’t know if you noticed this, but I covered one wall entirely in a fiber optic curtain to create a country starry sky. Coming from the city, I wasn’t quite sure what his idea of country would be, and then I felt that stars were needed in Corey’s environment after he explained he comes from the Australian countryside. Something that Corey did all on his own was to create a special parting gift for each guest that doubled as a place card: homemade rhubarb jam placed in little jars. I loved this, for me every event you throw needs to make your guests feel like rock stars and giving gifts is a great passive-aggressive way of making them never forget you long after the party is over! 

I love that Corey wanted the food and the décor to constantly surprise and entertain his guests. His long list of offerings for food and drink during the course of the evening equally matched the enormous assortment of design elements I placed in the room. All in all, the room was very stimulating on all levels, and when folks are seated at a dining table for a long period of time, it's smart to make sure they don’t run out of things to talk about. Some of the details that you might have missed in Corey’s room were spectacular: The authentic farmer’s table and real ranch fencing really gave us a trip to the outback. Corey mentioned that his grandmother always used a real lace table covering for their country dinners growing up, so I made a lace runner to accent his dining table along with fresh arrangements of assorted wild flowers including daisies and thistle arranged within old mason jars. There were even some faux roosters and chickens milling about!

Corey brought in some of his own candles that were known as traditional “home candles” along with his own “home” signage. Even amongst all of the pressure of getting his meal out, Corey didn’t forget his design concept and his personal connection to his dining environment. He stayed consistent and true through out the competition.

When the guests walked into Corey’s room they all said, “Oooh Country!” The whole ambiance screamed it and as the party continued the guests had no question about where they were and where they belonged. 

Corey’s “Mummified Shrimp with Avocado Citrus Salad” were encased in texture and taste; his design concepts and room certainly affirmed his signature style with a playful and gregarious approach.

I don’t know what airline Corey cooks for, but I will certainly be boarding that plane with my fork and knife party ready!


Spring Time in New York!!

After sitting with Nicole, I had to edit out a lot of words and try to hone in on the design. I loved the fact that Nicole was completely convicted, about her décor, but I wasn’t sure if she was listening to herself enough while she was quickly trying to get her concept out into the room. I felt like she was really stuck in the literal definition of "town," and not in the abstract creative versions of what "town" could be, and how to make it a “Nicole version” of the concept rather than what the world thinks "town" should be. This is not a bad thing because what Nicole chose to do was completely lovely and digestible, but I feel like we have all seen this before and it may have been a safe reinvention of the wheel. The color combination she wanted disappointed me a little. Pink and green for a Spring concept is just too obvious for my world. There are so many versions of colors or gradients of pink and green that could have really added some texture and dimension to Nicole’s room that I was just itching to use. Also the use of a rich tone to weigh down the room such as a chocolate brown or a mastic grey accent would have really added some sophistication to the existing color palette.  

The "town" concept was based upon what folks experience in large cities where everything is new and the ultimate in forward thinking trends. Nicole needed to bring her own trend to the table with her cooking and her design concepts. The one area I felt she did this was to request that I use several runners on the table horizontally instead of vertically. She also wanted me to make multiple small floral centerpieces instead of one big one for the middle of the table. Nicole’s taste in flowers was lovely. She requested peonies, ranunculus, pink tulips and for the touch of green; viburnum. 

I added another floral touch for her place cards which were sculpted silver Phaeleonopsis orchid heads to add a touch of silver bling into the room. 

I also felt that the room needed some more texture and warmth so I took Nicole’s love for pink and saturated it in the room through LED lighting. For the texture I brought in two huge cherry blossom trees that the guests would walk under while entering into their new dining experience. I brought in a large hedge to enclose the room a little so the guests felt more of an organic springtime and intimate effect, kind of like finding a lovely corner in Central Park to have dinner in.  Terrance Brennan mentioned that her food was a little '80s and I feel that her décor concepts may have been as well when I think back to Nicole’s signature dish: the Salmon with Black Truffle Butter with Yukon Potatoes, and of the rest of her dinner party menu including the tuna tartare, etc. but hey, who doesn’t love the '80s? 

I feel like if you are going to go into this sort of a competition you need to go in with all four burners on, or go home! Congrats to both chefs Nicole and Corey!!! 

I thoroughly enjoyed working with both of the chefs on this episode, and I particularly enjoyed watching the guests have an awesome time. Mo Rocca kept a smile on my face throughout the entire episode!
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We Like to Party

Jes Gordon dives deep into what throwing a party really means.

This party will continue... for all of us!!!!!

One of the most common ledges I have to talk my clients off of is something I like to call “post-party depression.” This sounds funny at first, but it is a real problem in my world, and I am often spending a lot of time convincing folks that there is not only one party to be thrown in their lives, and that there are plenty to come in the future. 

What is interesting about our show is that obviously, since it's a competition, everyone has to live in the moment and make this particular party mean everything since there is a prize at stake. What I like to concentrate on though, is that for everyone involved in the show including the contestants, the guests, Rocco, and even myself, is that the party will surely go on whereever and at any time we want it to. 

Basically people, we are free to party!!!

Something that I adore about Rocco (amongst many things) is that he values good quality time with the people he loves. He is also a huge fan of comfort, beauty, and high-end elements. Something that I learned from doing his show is that it is a true gift to those around you when you cook for them. I feel the same way about setting the ambiance of the room where that food is being served, and it’s pretty genius of Bravo to understand the importance of both and creating an outlet where Rocco and I can truly prove our points. Since I cannot cook… anything, I prefer to design environments where the two elements can harmonize together. I am still trying to convince Rocco to give me a cooking lesson some day.Why do we celebrate? Do we want presents? Do we want to get dressed up? Do we want to get drunk? Or maybe we want to find out who is most important to us in our lives….There is no right or wrong reason to celebrate -- we just all need to realize that we are lucky to do so, and that the people that show up to be with us mean so very much. We all have our reasons to celebrate and our own “party meter.” Some of us celebrate when a broken nail grows back, or if someone goes into remission from cancer, or is having a 65th birthday like Liza Minnelli, and there are no party police that step in and tell us that we are under arrest for choosing our own reasons to party. This is an area in our lives where we can escape the usual rules and just forget about our jobs, our taxes, and picking the kids up from school for a day. We also tend to allow ourselves to consume carbs and eat candy, which is certainly a valid reason to move forward into “party land."

Amongst the fun part comes the serious stuff. The quality of the party directly reflects how you feel about the guests you are inviting. Rocco is a perfectionist when it comes to this, and he is flawless in making his guests feel like kings and queens for the time they spend with him as a party host. This is a lost art. Parties have become major outlets to show off celebrities, money, and fashion. Rocco brings his party ideals back to where they belong; events that are thrown from the heart and from creating an experience from which people don't want to leave and remember long after the event. 

Being a great host is pretty exhausting. It’s like playing a very intricate game of chess for one part of the brain and then a crazy karaoke session for the other side. You are constantly insuring that your guests are happy and making conversation while worrying about the back of the house logistics and wondering if they are going smoothly. This is certainly one of the biggest challenges of my job. It is iterally a juggling marathon, and if one of the ball drops it reflects on you. Something to remember is that whatever goes on behind the scenes and can be solved behind the scenes is fine. You may be having heart palpitations, but as long as your guests don't know about the drama that is happening you are all good. Troubleshooting is a must in this biz!

We often saw Rocco having to go into the kitchen to check on the chefs and to make sure they were on target, and then he would have to go back to his guests and continue to stay cool, calm, and charming: he pulled it off, but this is not an easy thing to do. I do this every day and it's exhausting yes, but its also exciting and I am lucky to be doing it!As you entertain and celebrate more, things start to become more fluid. I can easily pick out seasoned entertainers just by how they hold themselves or make decisions. It is very rare that a chef is also an effective host; it takes an enormous amount of coordination, kind of like singing and playing the drums at the same time. What I love about this show is that the chefs didn't really know what they were getting into to a certain extent, and I feel like this experience whether they lost or won will make them better at what they do. Many of the chefs spoke of wanting to open their own restaurants some day. Well, how would they do that if they can only cook without a time limit or not think about what that restaurant would look like? I assume that many of the competing chefs from this season were thankful for this experience and from what they learned from Rocco and myself. 

The most important part of continuing to evolve as an entertainer or host is to lose the ego. If we stop learning from those around us, we will hit the ceiling pretty quickly…. I have learned so much from my clients and continue to do so. I found that a few of the chefs from the show were pretty egotistical, and I truly hope that they don't close themselves off from learning as they continue to grow in their careers and personal lives. When you are a host, the evening is about your guests and not about you. If you are good at what you do, you can put your own flair onto the experience in a subtle way and not interfere with the flow of the evening.  Many of my clients can walk into one of my events and say, “Oh this is a Jes Gordon event,” which is great, but if it's too overwhelming, then the event gets lost, and the reason for the event is forever gone and misrepresented. It’s so important to keep the right focus for any party which really comes down to making every one of your guests feel special and that the party is for them and them only. 

In terms of this last episode, I think it was fully realized that the focus of both dinner parties was on Liza Minnelli’s 65th birthday! What an amazing lady, and what an honor it was to be part of her special day, and the rest of the guests weren’t too shabby either. I enjoyed working with Lucia and Frank very much. Though Frank’s vision had me a little confused at first, everything came together phenomenally, and Lucia was focused on celebrating Liza and only Liza, which definitely came through in her room!   

I tell my clients all the time, and now I am telling you: don’t forget to have fun. At the end of the day, these are celebrations, so allow yourself to enjoy them! Follow me on Twitter, and watch for my company blog for great tips and news!

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Author: Party Like A Rock Star


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