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!