Friday, 13 June 2014 | MYT 1:45 PM

Thousands dine on Paris bridges for 'Dinner in White'

Setting up a picnic for a crowd of thousands is an exercise in choreography and organisation. – Photo Vivian Song/AFP

Setting up a picnic for a crowd of thousands is an exercise in choreography and organisation. – Photo Vivian Song/AFP

Outdoor pop-up restaurant draws around 12,000 smartly dressed diners.

Thousands of elegantly dressed Parisians clad all in white dined under the night sky on bridges around Paris last night (June 12) in an unusually chic take on the flash mob.

Organisers said 12,000 to 13,000 people – who managed to score one of the coveted invitations – participated in the 26th “Dinner in White” (Diner en Blanc), which raises money for cancer research.

The “mob” came dressed in elegant, wide-brimmed hats, dainty lace gloves and three-piece suits in varying shades of white, ecru and beige.

Diner en Blanc in, Paris, 2014. 1. On the menu: cantaloupe and prosciutto for starters; 2. Dining al fresco on the Pont Alexandre III; 3. No plastic forks or paper plates allowed. Table settings are Parisian chic; 4. For these guests, Diner en Blanc is the cat's meow; and 5. Picnicking Parisian-style. – Photos Vivian Song/AFP

The location was kept top secret until about half an hour before the start of the event. This year, they gathered at six bridges across the city, including the Passerelle Debilly at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and Pont de l’Alma.

With military precision, rows of tables – which conform to precise measurements to ensure a unified aesthetic – were set up and topped with bouquets of fresh flowers, ornate candelabras, gold-gilded plates and silverware. In this civilised French dining experience, plastic cutlery and paper plates are strictly forbidden, as are beers and spirits.

At precisely 11pm, when the Iron Lady erupted in her fairy tale lights, picnickers played back-up lighting up the night sky with thousands of sparklers. – Photo Vivian Song/AFP

At coordinated moments throughout the night, guests rose en masse waving their white napkins in the air, and lit up the night with sparklers.

Here’s a look at last year’s event in Paris:

From a little picnic to a worldwide phenomenon

Diner en Blanc began in 1988 when François Pasquier hosted a picnic for 200 friends in Bagatelle park and asked them to dress up in white to find each other. Little did he know that his idea would become an international phenomenon, now held in 40 cities worldwide, including New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Cape Town.

But unlike other editions, you cannot simply sign up and pay a fee to participate in the Parisian event. Guests must be co-opted or sponsored in order to participate.

In other words, they have to “know someone”.

Setting up for the Dinner in White in New York in 2013. – AFP

Women must wear a white hat, gloves, flower or corsage, while men must don a white hat, a white flower boutonniere, and likewise be dressed all in white.

The menu must also be adhered to:

  • a bottle of red wine
  • a bottle of champagne
  • a bottle of water
  • 4 white dinner plates
  • white tablecloth
  • white napkins
  • real water and wine glasses
  • real silverware
  • a three-course meal consisting of an entreé, cold main dish, and cheese platter or dessert
  • bread
  • a candle
  • 2 garbage bags minimum

The closest one to us is in Singapore on July 5. For more international dates visit dinerenblanc.info.

For a look into what happens at Diner en Blanc, watch the documentaryDiner en Blanc: The World’s Largest Dinner Party (available on iTunes) by filmmaker Jennifer Ash.

Sources: AFP, LeParisien

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Diner en Blanc , Dinner in White 2014


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