Finding Your Focal Point

Jes Gordon responds to Jung Lee's comments, saying that sometimes less isn't more.


You taste your ingredients while you are cooking and you look at your elements as you are designing!

Something Rocco always says to the competing chefs is that it’s essential to constantly taste their food before, during, and after cooking their meals. 

It’s the same thing with design. Sadly the chefs on the show do not have the luxury of really being involved in the process of physically designing the rooms, but if you all could see how the rooms transform, you would be blown away by how many perspectives we need to get of the room before completing the environment.

I often find myself walking on top of tables, hanging from ceilings and scaling walls in order to really see how my rooms translate from every angle. 

In this challenge, The Perfect Summer Party, the chefs needed to keep their meals light, so I wanted to be sure that the décor had plenty of carbs!

I met with Ryan Poli first, the super-chill dude from Chicago with the amazing hairline! I like the direction Ryan wanted to take because it was organic and masculine, much like his cooking style. For me, summer is all about freedom and celebration, and I loved that Ryan wanted to bring the beach to the table and the table to the beach. 

My favorite design element that Ryan came up with completely on his own was the “Message in a Bottle” idea. That was really unexpected coming from him after hearing his other requested elements such as; driftwood, sand, shells, flowers, candles etc. Ryan did have a lot of elements in his design, but the “Message in a Bottle” was a wonderful focal point in the room. I found antique mini bottles and had his menu printed out on a rolled up little note that the guests had to retrieve from the bottle. This was a nice interactive element and in “real life,” I would have the wait staff remove the items so they are not in the way of the actual dinner. 

Jung Lee felt that there were too many elements on the table so an easy resolution to that is to let the guests discover the fun novelty item and then have it taken away or stored, so the guests can take it home with them or you can keep it for your next dinner party! Or… you can invite Jeff Ross over to eat it for you!Is less really more all of time? In this case, I didn’t agree…. I felt like Ryan needed some fun focal points in the room amongst all of his organic elements. Sometimes organic design can fall flat in a room. When you only work with organic tones and textures there is no pop to the environment! You need to mix country and rock 'n' roll. 

I did change out the dining table to a natural rosewood plank table, which was surrounded by natural bamboo chairs, and all of the florals consisted of pod elements mixed with real artichokes within bamboo vases and surrounded by accents of shells, and driftwood. I wanted to pump up the color a little in the room by adding really fab silk striped pillows for the back of the dining chairs and we took a plain white rug that was beneath the table and painted matching stripes on it to match the pillows. To me, this helped give the room a “KA POW” much like a superhero logo.

I don’t know if you all noticed the gorgeous huge photos on the wall amongst that awesome surfer dude painting, but those photos were actually pictures from my honeymoon in the Maldives!! There is nothing wrong with inviting your guests into your own private world at your events. Every one of your events should represent who you are as a person in some form or another in a digestible way. 

For Ryan, I felt that he definitely needed a surf element in his room, but I decided to not go the surf board/dining table route, the shape would be a nightmare to eat at! Instead, we sourced some really organic surfboards to just hang out in the corner of his room to bring the surf vibe in full circle. It’s cute that a guy from Chicago was so “beach-centric.”


For such a messy girl, her design scheme was super-chic and neat! Jen wanted to channel that ethereal and sexy vibe that you get from all of the super trendy Miami hotels and nightclubs. She secretly told me that she also wanted this look for her upcoming wedding and that her dinner party was a perfect place to try it out.People tend to think that the only way to look chic and trendy is to do everything in white. This is not true… in fact, the use of accent colors are the ultimate way to make a statement in any room. I wanted to give Jen that clean white effect, but I also wanted her guests to have a feeling of celebration and summer in the room as well. 

I created the white base of the room by draping most of the terrace with white scrim fabric. Scrim fabric is literally hospital gauze and it's really cost-effective. I then brought in an uber-chic square dining table that was lit from within with clear LED light technology. This light makes people feel really sexy and modern. I love the fact that Jen wanted some fire elements (thank God she let the tiki torch idea go!)

I rented two white self-standing fireplaces which created the ethereal ambiance the room really needed. If you go too white and too chic, the room gets intimidating and your guests may want to leave before having the chance to ease into the ambiance. 

Then I was thirsting for color so BAM!! I added some lovely aqua blue elements to the lounge seating pillows, and to the silk runner on the table. I brought in a few summer tones of orange and yellow into the room on the lounge seating as well. The real stunner of the night was the deep violet-colored Phalaenopsis orchid sprigs that floated in water on the table and draped across the corners of the fabric treatment. A little secret here is that Rocco was obsessed with these flowers!! He couldn’t take his eyes off of them and he actually pronounced Phalaenopsis perfectly the first time LOL! I surrounded the floating orchids with real blue rice paper and capiz shell votives.

I loved both of these rooms. Honestly Jen’s room is something I have seen and done a lot before, but that is OK. If something works design-wise you should repeat it. Why not? Ryan’s room was a little more original to me, just because you don’t see it every day. Some folks like things they haven’t seen before and others are not comfortable in those environments. What type  of person are you? 

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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