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Diner en Blanc scores at Queen’s Hall

Thursday, May 26, 2016
One example of how people got creative in decorating their table for Diner En Blanc Port-of-Spain on Sunday. PHOTO: FRANKA PHILIP

When Diner en Blanc took place in Jamaica last year, someone whispered it was not going to be long before it hit Trinidad’s shores. Diner en Blanc, is a popular event that takes place in about 50 cities all over the world. It’s a picnic, held in a secret location and those attending have to wear white. It wasn’t surprising to hear that Ultimate Events Ltd (the events arm of Tribe Carnival) might be the ones hosting it, but at that stage, CEO Dean Ackin would neither confirm nor deny whether his team was handling it. 

Finally, the word was out and people started talking about this “all white picnic” at a secret location on May 22. When the T&T Guardian interviewed UEL’s Laura Lee Laquis prior the event, she was excited about it, saying for the last few months she was “eating, drinking and sleeping Diner en Blanc.” 

Diner en Blanc is an international event, and for UEL to host it, Laquis had to sit an exam on the company’s behalf. 

She explained how it took about nine months to find a venue and that had its own set of rules as well—the venue had to be a landmark that was representative of Trinidad, therefore it couldn’t be held in a field, so out went the Savannah and the Botanic Gardens. 

When I got invited to cover the event, I realised one can’t cover an event like this without getting into the act like everyone else. 

Honestly, the preparation felt a bit fussy at first— find white clothes (the last time I wore white shoes was as a Holy Name Convent girl), white crockery, gorgeous stemware, table decor and nice food. The last part wasn’t a problem, if I wanted, I could have probably ordered the Chef Khalid Mohammed’s decadent looking four-course spread that included smoked salmon crepe with scallion mascarpone, capers and red onion. But Chef Bianca Bianco of St Joseph fixed me up with a gorgeous spread that included ricotta spinach quiche, black butter infused chicken with cognac mushroom sauce and pate a choux with roasted apple cream. 

One of the rules of Diner en Blanc is that it had to be diverse. The international body doesn’t want it to be a posh people’s do. In some places, the event was criticised as being elitist because of the secrecy and waiting list arrangements (the Paris waiting list is apparently 15,000 for example) and in Trinidad, there was that talk as well. People could have signed up for Diner en Blanc via the Facebook page or the website, both of which were quite public. The charge of $375 was not prohibitive and people had the option to spend as much or as little as they wanted on food, clothes etc. 

Once at the venue, it was clear that a wide range of people were in attendance. There were young professionals, designers, artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, members of the protective services, personal trainers, creatives and media people. It was also politico lite—Legal Affairs Minister Stuart Young was the only minister I spotted. 

Oh, the venue? After all the speculation about whether it would be Stollmeyer’s Castle, Central Bank Towers or the Brian Lara Promenade patrons were shuttled to Queen’s Hall car park. While not as opulently decorated as when Brian McFarlane hosted his Christmas concert a few months ago, the UEL team did a great job of transforming the place. 

It easily fit the nearly 1,000 patrons and the Hall itself was a great option for toilets and shelter in case it rained. 

When the photos from Sunday’s event started hitting social media sites, people were seeing how classy our people looked in their whites (local designers like The Cloth, Zadd and Eastman, Meiling and CLD were in full effect), and how creatively people pitched up to decorate their tables—yes, people brought candles, flowers, ornaments, busts and even white sprayed branches. 

The spread of food was impressive, lots of people cooked and the presentation of the food on the tables could not be faulted. I was totally mesmerised by a freshly baked pineapple upside down cake and a lavish cheese spread that could have easily appeared on the cover of a food magazine. 

To end the evening, DJs Foreplay and Private Ryan had people dancing in the car park. The mostly over-30s crowd did the electric slide, wined down and had a blast. 

Ultimate Events took a huge chance with this event, but in the end, it was worth it. It wasn’t perfect, there were a few very minor hitches like the long wait for shuttles to leave the meeting point, but overall, Diner en Blanc PoS was extremely well organised, and many plan to do it again next year. TTHTI Student services manager Jala Bernard who was a table leader on Sunday, told the Guardian the people at her table were extremely satisfied with how things went. 
• For more about Diner en Blanc see page B32


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