About Jill Gordon
An interview with James Lipton
(Well, a fantasy interview…)
James Lipton: Where were you born?
Jill Gordon: Doctor’s Hospital, New York City. I was born and raised in Manhattan.
JL: And what school did you attend?
JG: Horace Mann, and then I went to the University of Pennsylvania.
JL: Your second grade teacher, Mrs. Bolan, says you were a precocious and creative child.
JG: Well, I was an only child and dragged around New York a lot by my parents, who really enjoyed the city and all it had to offer. I think the early exposure kind of shaped my love of beauty, design, food and culture in general.
JL: How were you introduced to the Hamptons, which is where you’ve chosen to live for many years.
JG: In those days, you’d never refer to “the Hamptons.” My family started coming to East Hampton when I was about 6 or 7, and we spent most of our weekends here. It was always a happy place to be – lots of family and friends around, days at the beach, movies at the old Post Office Theater and the drive-in in Bridgehampton. We ate especially well out here, shopping at the Farmer’s Market in Amagansett when it was just a small family business and the Green Thumb in Water Mill, getting our chickens and fresh eggs at Iaconno’s, the best baguettes and lobster salad at the original Loaves and Fishes.
JL: Didn’t your father used to joke about the origin of your mother’s salads?
JG: (laughs) Wow James, you really do your research. Yeah, my father used to joke that my mother had to buy lettuce from four different farm stands just to make one salad. We did a lot of family dinners and parties on weekends. My mother made incredible food and really knew how to put a dinner party together. My father, though he was definitely king of the grill, liked to grab the flowers and candles off the table complaining they were in the way. He was overreacting. We always put them back.
JL: In 1993 after several years catering high-end events for New York’s fashion, social and corporate clientele, you left New York City and moved out to East Hampton to open the catering department at the Red Horse Market. It was a pivotal moment in your life. How did that come about?
JG: Well, I really just came out for the summer; the pivotal part was that I ended up staying permanently. The Red Horse had opened that winter. Joel Dean and Jack Ciglic from Dean and Deluca had designed the store and there was a lot of buzz about it. It was such an exciting place to be that I didn’t want to leave at the end of the summer. So I stayed.
JL: And then you left to start your own business, celebrate, in 1995. What is it like planning weddings and events for the “Hamptons” client? You’ve worked with celebrities of all sorts: stars of stage and screen, important political families and other local notables.
JG: James, I’ll never tell. Truly, you’ll never get me to talk about my well-known clients, and I believe that’s one of the reasons they choose to work with me. But I work with all kinds of people, and that’s really the best part of my job – I love my clients.
JL: Marvelous. Our students would like to hear about how you approach your craft. Are there any tips you can share about how to approach their own careers or perhaps their own weddings? What is a “Jill Gordon” event?
JG: My events – particularly the weddings – are much more about my clients than they are about me. My goal is to get inside someone’s head and help create the best possible version of what they’re envisioning. For me, the most important piece of planning any event is thinking about the guests’ experience – what’s going to keep them comfortable, interested, feeling well cared for. It’s all about flow – of time and space – at the end of the day.
JL: What is the planning experience like?
JG: I know things are going well when everyone involved is relaxed and enjoying the process. At its best, it’s a giant collaboration between me, the couple and our vendors. I’ve got great relationships with the most amazing, talented people in the industry, and that’s where the great fun lies for me in the process. If you’re going to be in this business for over twenty years, it helps if you truly get excited by things like beautiful paper or coming up with the perfect amuse bouche.
JL: We begin our classroom with the questionnaire invented by my hero, Bernard Pivot. Jill, what is your favorite word?
JG: James, I’m sorry but I’m out of time. Gotta run. Thanks so much for having me!