Q & A

Chris Giftos:
The Master of the Met

Chris Giftos
Manager of Special Events, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Favorite magazines: Bon App?tit, Food & Wine.

Nights out per week: Three for business, three for personal.

Favorite vacation getaways: His homes in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Cherry Grove, Fire Island.

April 16, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Chris Giftos brings some diverse credentials to his post as the person who oversees every event held in one of New York's most renowned venues, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to a God-given ability to arrange flowers, he has 40 years' experience catering to the whims of the rich and famous--everyone from Greta Garbo to Princess Diana.

Those qualifications help Giftos play host to one of the biggest social events in New York, the legendary Costume Institute gala, which draws luminaries ranging from Vogue's Anna Wintour and Gucci's Tom Ford to Sean “Puffy” Combs. This year's benefit is April 23.

Although he is known for his flower arranging genius, his biggest strength may be another skill: diplomatically dealing with the egos of the museum's officials and volunteers, some of the cr?me de la cr?me of New York society.

But Giftos modestly asserts that his success stems from luck. “You have to be in the right place at the right time,” he says. “I learned how to put a fork on the left. I got on-the-job training.”

One of his biggest fans is New York society doyenne Pat Buckley, the wife of William F. Buckley, who served as chairwoman of the Costume Institute gala for 17 years. “I relied on Chris heavily,” she says. “He's got quite an extraordinary feel for anything that grows horticulturally, he's a master arranger of flowers and he's the nicest man I know.”

Born in 1940 in Astoria, Queens, Giftos was captivated by the scent of flowers as a teenager, mopping floors and making deliveries for a local flower shop. After stints in the Army and at an insurance company, he returned to his true passion--flowers--landing in 1962 at the legendary Madison Avenue flower shop Christatos and Koster, where he served everyone from Garbo--his first customer, whom he didn't recognize--to the Astors, Rockefellers and Paleys.

Another client, the Metropolitan Museum, purchased flowers from him for its parties. In 1970 Giftos suggested to museum officials that they hire him full time. He started at the Met as assistant banquet manager, and his responsibilities have gradually evolved; his title is now manager of special events. With his three assistants, he oversees hundreds of events annually, everything from cocktail parties for the Apollo Circle, a group of museum members under the age of 40, to fashion shows put on by corporate members--who must donate $50,000 per event--like Cotton Inc.

Giftos attends to every detail of every event at the Met; from the invitations to the path guests will take through the museum, to d?cor, food, wine and entertainment. (The Met uses its contract caterer, Restaurant Associates, or can bring in others; it has a liquor license and, of course, Giftos can provide flower arrangements.)

Despite the Met's glamorous venues--among guests' favorites are the Egyptian Temple of Dendur and the Petrie European Sculpture Court--Giftos' greatest concerns mirror those of party-givers everywhere: “I have to make sure that the food comes out hot, the flowers survive the dinner and that the sound system works.”

Posted 04.16.01

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