La Vie de Ville: Hundreds enjoy Dîner en Blanc

POP-UP PARTY

By Roberta Grove

Special to The Advocate

Advocate photo by ROBERTA GROVE -- Paige Kuhlmann, left, and Chris Farrell, both of New Orleans, were among hundreds of participants in Diner En Blanc.
Advocate photo by ROBERTA GROVE -- Paige Kuhlmann, left, and Chris Farrell, both of New Orleans, were among hundreds of participants in Diner En Blanc.

Twenty-something years ago in Paris, François Pasquier launched the social media phenomenon called Le Dîner en Blanc. Today, the Parisian model attracts over 15,000 smartly dressed diners to a “secret” location for one of the largest spontaneous dinner parties in the world.

It was only a matter of time before the idea was picked up in one of America’s most European cities, New Orleans.

Event coordinator Cleveland Spears III started working on the Crescent City’s very first Dîner en Blanc four months ago.

“This event is primarily marketed through social media,” Spears said. Supported by New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, the event picked up steam when some key sponsors came on board and Dîner en Blanc la Nouvelle Orleans was off and running, according to Spears, who heads up the Spears Consulting Group.

“We believe in supporting creative efforts, such as this one, which showcase the talents of young entrepreneurs like Cleveland Spears. We believe that Dîner en Blanc will become one of New Orleans’ greatest events, falling on the calendar just after French Quarter Festival but before the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival,” said Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Louisiana’s Roderic Teamer Sr. Other event sponsors, such as Michael Murphy II of Murphy Cadillac and First NBC’s Jean Guy Celestin, echoed that sentiment. All seemed to be enjoying the evening.

Spears must be onto to something big, because more than 800 elegantly attired participants arrived at the Port of New Orleans Place — the “secret” location, divulged at the last possible moment — for what may have been the largest spontaneous dinner party ever held in New Orleans.

“We are one of the first North American cities to host Dîner en Blanc,” Cantrell said. New York’s first event attracted over 31,000 people last summer. This year the event is expected to travel to Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Las Vegas and San Francisco, among other places.

Participants register online and agree to dress all in white and bring their own picnic-style dinner with all the trimmings. All are encouraged to include table décor in their planning and are requested to put their best etiquette foot forward for the evening.

The result is lovely Parisian-inspired mass public picnic. On a pass around rows of tables cloaked in white tablecloths, I observed hundreds of participants capturing the spirit of what François Pasquier originally envisioned.

Some participants really went all out and brought along their best china and crystal complete with silver candlestick and fresh flowers. Wine was in abundance at every table.

Yes, Dîner en Blanc is probably here to stay, based on the success of our city’s first mass dinner party al fresco. If you missed it this year, look out for the encore presentation next year. The night was definitely trés chic!

To learn more about this trendy and fun event, check out http://www.neworleans.dinerenblanc.info.

La Vie de Ville captures city life New Orleans style every Thursday in The Advocate New Orleans Community News Section. Please email information on your upcoming event to robertagrove@hotmail.com.