As a child growing up in Silver City, NM, Jordan McCalmont enjoyed rearranging everything in his bedroom. Regardless of the month, he would hang Christmas lights up. Every one of his professional pursuits–whether working as a private chef at a friend’s dinner party or building modern lamps from castoff sheet music stands–involves taking some- thing that already exists and making it beautiful.
“I’ve taken the next step recently, and that’s really what I want to do,” McCalmont said. “Luckily, I can still keep my day job.”
Outgoing, honest and self-deprecating, McCalmont was enthusiastic as he discussed his life over coffee at Little City one afternoon in July. He’s very grateful that his particular day job, as a server and manager at Gumbo’s, affords him the opportunity to pursue his calling in the world of design. After studying classic French cuisine in the south of France and receiving his degree from the Culinary School of the Rockies in Boulder, McCalmont worked as a cook. A natural extrovert, he later decided to switch things up and work as a server.
“It’s a job that allows me to do what I love,” McCalmont said, noting the negative stereotypes that some people have about service industry workers. “If you can find something that gives you time to do the things you love, that can be a beautiful thing.”
The foundation for his move to Austin was laid as a child. Both his parents were progressive artist types, and he attended a small hippie school called down to Earth. Austin has been his home for seven years, and for six of these, he’s worked at three Gumbo’s locations.
His lamps, which he builds from repurposed tripods and handmade shades, are available at downtown design shops threshold and IF+D and on his website, jordanmichaeldesign.net. An introduction to the painter Graydon Parrish was pivotal; after he saw McCalmont’s lamps, he commissioned him to design a chest of drawers and Parrish was pleased with the final result.
“It is masculine, balanced and beautiful, and I could not be happier,” said Parrish, who has also commissioned two bedside tables. He described the piece as “part Versailles and part Marquis de Sade, refulgent, silver-leafed and mirror-flanked, lined in Turkish red and punctuated with spear-like, militant silver handles.”
Two life-altering changes set McCalmont on a path for success and he’s nothing if not appreciative. The first is his relationship with his boyfriend, Brian Snapp, and the support he receives from him for his artistic pursuits. Snapp, who works in real estate, has provided McCalmont with ample studio space in North Austin to spread out and do his design work. “i come home with wires and cords and crap from the thrift store and he’s fine with it.”
The other is McCalmont’s decision to give up drinking almost three years ago, which he said was a paradigm shift that came about as a result of taking an honest look at himself. “I find if I do the next right thing and just tell the truth, it becomes very selfless and powerful,” McCalmont said. “That’s where I’m at right now.”
Beyond the unwavering support of the management at Gumbo’s, which allows him to maintain a flexible schedule, McCalmont credited his family and his friends with providing him the support and connections to grow professionally. He relishes his work as a private chef for Austinites and favors whole foods paired with delicious, local, organic ingredients. He’s currently taking some interior design classes at Austin Community College and, although he would like to be full time in design in about five years, he maintains a go-with-the-flow attitude about his design work.
“None of this would be happening,” he said, “were it not for the fact that I decided to make that change and do the next right thing over and over.”