This past Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending Dîner en Blanc at Lincoln Center. Selavi Global produced the event impressively. Everyone was dressed beautifully in white and had the most creative table displays. The evening included special surprises such as performances by Opera singers Samantha Jeffreys and Andrea Chinedu Nwoke. Rockjazz musician ELEW and Brooklyn United Marching Band also impressed guests with their vibrant sound. Cover Girl provided a touch up station with free makeup giveaways as well as a photo booth to capture the moment. Chef Todd English prepared elegant picnic meals with dishes such as Southern Fried Chicken, Baby Back Ribs, and Vegan Corn Salad.
Additionally, Evian Badoit, Kenwood Vineyards, and Canard-Duchêne Champagne provided the beverages for the evening. The combination of elegant plates and refreshments balanced each other perfectly. The event’s DJ also superbly mixed a variety of tunes to add to the chicness of the affair.
I spoke with Gilles Amsallem, co-founder of Selavi Global, to get his take on the event:
LR: Tell me a bit about Selavi Global and how your relationship with Dîner en Blanc began. What motivates you to continue producing the event?
GA: I spent 15 years doing textiles, but then there was a big shift in the fashion industry. Business and social events started booming so our company became known for great events. Dîner en Blanc chose Selavi seven years ago to produce and launch the event in NY and other cities. People were recommending us. The event had been extremely popular in France for 20 years, so it was a beautiful image for our DNA. We used to be known for French Tuesdays, beautiful white parties in NY and LA. When we launched Dîner en Blanc for the first time, it was an obvious partnership. The event was spectacular so we kept doing it.
LR: What do you enjoy most about the event?
GA:The response is great from so many sides. There are over 100 volunteers. People really want to be part of it. There are amazing people from our guests to our sponsors.
LR: How do you go about picking the location?
GA: Not that many venues can hold 5000 people. It’s all about being diverse and choosing venues that can accommodate and that can legally have that many people. The place has to be iconic, exciting, and have a wow factor. It takes 2 months to get permits for liquor, the fire marshal, etc. It’s a full-time job for a few people and volunteers. This year the event sold out in 4 days.
LR: How do you orchestrate the volunteer component?
GA: We have table and group leaders- there’s a high demand for volunteer spots. We give priority to people from last year that were very good with communication, friendly, and had lots of good comments from guests. We look for people with passion as this takes up a lot of hours to plan.
I also spoke to Chef Todd English on his involvement with Dîner en Blanc:
LR: What continues to draw you back to partnering with the event?
TE: I like the uniqueness of it. It’s a fun event, the excitement it draws the whole atmosphere of popping up in a cool place in the city. I like the spirit of it.
LR: What inspires you in creating the curated menus for the evening?
TE:This year I did a fried chicken and a barbecue dish. I did a vegetarian round as well. It has to be something that will be easy to eat in that setting. The food has to be somewhat picnic-like. You can’t grill so it either has to be room temperature or cold. And it should be fun and creative.
LR: What’s your favorite aspect of the event?
TE: Finding out where it is at the last minute is a fun part of it. I’m always marveled at how elegant it is when you have 5000 people all dressed in white. There are a lot of fun people and it’s a festive event. It’s the Kentucky Derby meets Mardi Gras meets Dîner en Blanc.
Lastly, I spoke to ELEW regarding his debut at Dîner en Blanc:
LR: What prompted you to partner with the event?
ELEW: Gilles and I became good buddies as part of my Los Angeles adventures. I’ve been doing a lot of screenwriting and directing. When I’m not doing that, I always stop by to jam with him at Jazz Eclectic Mondays [which he started]. I would just go there and light it up. He kept inviting me back. Then he told me he was going to be here at Dîner en Blanc and asked me to be a part of it. So it was very nice and natural.
LR: How do you go about picking what songs you would play?
ELEW: I try to do things that are going to cause people to really feel a part of what the mood is and what the look is. Some of the music that I play works great in this sort of panorama, in this type of space where it can really resound and resonate all over the place. It has a very elegant history and it’s nice to bring that elegance to all of the elegantly dress men and women that are flourishing in here and being fabulous.
LR: What’s most impressed you about being here?
ELEW: I like the community feeling. I love the large picnic feeling of it all. It’s lacking pretense oddly with all of the elegance, yet it’s very homey.
What an incredible evening with a beautiful crowd!