For 21 years, Jes Gordon has managed corporate and personal parties through her company properFUN, meeting celebrities’ visions and fulfilling non-famous clients’ dreams of a big day. Though properFUN started in New York, six years ago the company expanded out to Los Angeles. Ask Jes which is her favorite city, and she at first weighs the different party cultures: “I have a saying,” she said. “In LA, the party starts when the celebrity walks into the room, and in New York, the party ends when the celebrity walks in the room.” (“If I had to make a Sophie’s choice,” she admitted, “it would be New York, for sure.”)
However, moving to LA has helped Jes to broaden her sphere of influence: She’s now a “design mentor” on Bravo’s Rocco’s Dinner Party, where she joins celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito in aiding young chefs with planning a dinner party for celebrity guests like Joey Fatone and Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s Caroline Manzo.
On the show, three chefs cook their signature dishes for Rocco, who then chooses two to go on to the finals. What the chefs don’t know is that they suddenly have mere hours to create a dinner party around that signature dish. That’s where Jes steps in. Unlike her normal consultations, where she might spend months or even years planning out the perfect fêtes, she has only about fifteen minutes with each chef. (There’s also a $20,000 prize on the line, which means extra stress for everyone!)
So how do you streamline this process to ensure that the chefs are still getting the full “Jes Gordon effect”?
When I meet with the chefs, I literally get a few key words out of our [discussion], and to be honest, most of it has to do with food. It’s hard for them to think about the entire environemnt, so I try and latch onto certain things that they say. [A few episodes ago,] Nicole really zeroed in on the flowers, and that’s what I hooked into. After three seconds of conversation, I already knew where I was gonna go with it. She mentioned certain romance flower types, [so we] went with peonies and French tulips.
Sometimes it’s more fun when it’s fifteen minutes ’cause it’s more of a challenge for me to extract it out of them, and to extract it out of myself. What’s really challenging for me on the show is that I’m not allowed to guide them. I’m not allowed to say, “Hey, hey, hey, no, don’t do that, do this.” I would catch myself starting that, so that was my personal challenge on the show.
What hints can you give us about future episodes?
I did run into a challenge that will come up [in a few weeks]. With one of the chefs, I just really didn’t like her design, and that’s hard for me because I have to do it. Coming up with the ideas, it wouldn’t be right for the competition. There was a chef on an upcoming episode and I didn’t agree what she was asking me to do. But I had to keep my mouth shut. It was funny to me ’cause I knew the guests didn’t really like the room, either… You just kind of want to hate the person, and I kind of want to hate myself, too, because it’s [frustrating].
What was it like to blog about the show, like the other Bravo stars do?
I loved doing that, because a blog is a wonderful place for me because I can speak about the behind-the-scenes [stuff]. The show is only so long; you can’t go into “wow, how did she do that?” There’s just no time. We’re covering a lot of ground in the show. The blog is a wonderful place for me to give an inside look on how I do certain things and why I did certain things. A lot of people Twitter to me; I live-tweet during the show, so does Rocco. People will be like “Wow Jes, what flower was that?” or “Why did you use that fiber-optic curtain?” It gives me a chance to explain myself, which is great. Because I don’t have a lot of say in what the chefs want, this gives me a little bit of a hearing crowd/ground. I can talk about whether or not I agreed with what they decided, and what I did to rectify it.
Have you had the chance to interact with other Bravo stars at events?
Not yet. I’ll be honest—everybody’s so busy. What’s interesting about a lot of the Bravolebrities… We’re all working people, which is what’s kind of cool. Everybody that you see on a lot of their shows actually do what they do in real life. It’s not like we’re all hanging out at the pool between seasons. Everybody’s working: Rocco’s working on the book; I obviously have quite a day job; Jeff Lewis is designing; Tabatha [Coffey] is definitely working with her salon. These are working people; they’re not contrived actors. They really are professionals. I have not yet—there’s a couple that I could love to meet and I hope I do in the future. I have yet to meet Mr. Fabulous, Andy Cohen. I’m dying to meet him, to hug him, kiss him. [laughter] But otherwise, I think we’re all really busy and we really are genuinely working people. And that’s why we’re all not just hanging out at some Bravo club laughing and doing all that stuff. But we Twitter and that stuff.