Most often found in parks and on promenades, Diner en Blanc 2017 went uptown for its New York City stop.
The year’s grandest spontaneous dinner party took over Lincoln Center plaza on Tuesday night, bringing over 5,000 partiers dressed in all white for a flash mob picnic.
The whole thing came together only in the last seven weeks, when the permit was granted to hold the event at Lincoln Center. “The venue is the most complicated thing, especially now that we’re reaching 5,000 people,” says Gilles Amsallem, whose Selavi Productions organized Diner en Blanc NYC. “Every time I feel like we are all crazy to do such an event because it’s an enormous production.”
The waitlist for the iconic summer soiree reached over 50,000 people this year, who are the last ones to have dibs on tickets after they’re offered to previous years’ attendees and those they refer. Amsallem said tickets sold out 18 minutes after they were opened up to the waiting list.
The evening officially begins weeks in advance for attendees, too. Everyone must not only wear all white but bring their own tables and chairs, tableware, decorations and food (or opt for a picnic basket curated by a celebrity chef, this year Todd English). Wine by Kenwood Vineyards and bubbly from Champagne Canard-Duchêne flowed all night (or Evian and Badoit waters), and Covergirl kept the effects of humidity at bay with a beauty bar.
The location was not revealed until about 5 p.m., the prompt for everyone to hustle to the site and get set up before the evening officially kicks off when the entire crowd twirls their white napkins in their air in unison at 7 p.m.
After dinner is done, there is of course entertainment and dancing. This year’s star performer was pop-rock-jazz pianist Elew — “his talent is above anything I know” — who’s performed for the Obama family. A team of over 100 volunteers also play key roles in making sure everything runs smoothly.
Diner en Blanc began 29 years ago as a spontaneous gathering of friends in Paris who identified each other by wearing white. “We want it to be like at the original event,” says Amsallem. That means keeping it outside, maintaining the element of surprise, and having everyone put in a little effort to create the atmosphere of conviviality that turns strangers into friends.
“When everyone sits down, that is the relief. While using a respectful word, it is orgasmic,” he says. “We really accomplished something that makes so many people feeling like the experience was one of the best things in their life.”