Le Dîner en Blanc, one of the world’s coveted culinary events, hosted its 6th annual event in New York City’s Robert Wagner Park in Battery Park City last Thursday. 5000 people wearing all white attire attended this spectacular evening. Moët and Chandon and Apothic Wines sponsored the culinary affair. The event location was perfect and it was a surprise to all attendees until moments before the event. Guests brought their own tables, chairs, and picnic baskets. Decorations for table centerpieces included candelabras, flowers, and caged doves. Chef Todd English prepared catered baskets as well. It was incredible to see how the event came alive.
Le Dîner en Blanc originated in Paris almost 30 years ago and now takes place in 70 cities worldwide. I had the pleasure of speaking with two of the co-hosts for New York City’s Dîner en Blanc, Linda Davis and Peter Kohlmann, about their visions for the event and more. Here’s our conversation:
Lesley Reider: Tell me about what makes Dîner en Blanc special. What’s different about this year’s Dîner en Blanc in New York?
Linda Davis: People look for a beautiful evening to share their food, wine and champagne, and to come together as total strangers and meet new friends. It’s such a cross-section of the city. Anyone can buy a ticket. Once they buy their ticket, they only know where they’re meeting. We have leaders all over the city to bring them here. The boat is different. The setting is different. It’s an antique boat that we rented that dates back to the 1900s. We said we were having a corporate picnic. We’d never tell anyone what we’re doing. Even the band didn’t know until it arrived. We want to keep the whole premise a surprise for your location.
Peter Kohlmann: Yes, the boat’s a little over 50 years old. It’s an old New York City fire boat rescued by a group of people. They go on the river to keep it alive. They preserved it…the John Harvey. When it was built, it was the strongest fire boat that existed at the time.
LR: Tell me a bit more about the location.
PK: It was very challenging [on a production level]. There are 3 or 4 different areas here. As far as laying out the tables, providing enough lighting and sound for the whole group was pretty crazy. And then, there’s a group of people laying out these tables carefully amongst a garden that is precious to us.
LD: I love this location. Battery Park was very gracious to us to be here.
PK: The Battery Park authority did a great job of working with us, getting it all setup. Their staff was terrific. It’s a good partnership and a unique location.
LD: Peter is based here, [as is our other co-host Christine Tripoli Krische], and I’m based in Washington. Their knowledge of the city and of this kind of infrastructure [was valuable] in building it out so that guests are feeling equally part of the event.
LR: How did you both get involved with Dîner En Blanc?
PK: It’s a little long story because a few months ago they were putting out word for event producers to help them put this event together. Within a short time, we went through a process and we were selected. We’ve been working with the International Dîner En Blanc to get acclimated with the help of Linda, [who produces 3 other Dîner En Blanc events].
LD: So I came in with the background knowledge of Dîner En Blanc and Peter and Christine came with the total event production knowledge. So we’ve been a fantastic team together.
LR: Is there anything you can elaborate on throughout the night that we can expect?
PD: Obviously, more music. This band [in the background] is Apple & Jazz Band. There’s going to be a little piece from a Broadway singer from An American in Paris. He’s going to sing a couple of songs and then we’re going to go into DJ mode.
What a special evening!