Every year thousands of people dressed all in white descend on a carefully-chosen location in Sydney, take their seats at neatly- set-up pristinely white tables and chairs, and wait for the festivities to begin. It’s an event known as Diner En Blanc, a tradition that started in Paris 27 years ago and has since spread to 16 countries and 65 cities around the world. It’s what can only be described as a flash feast, and it comes with a twist – guests don’t know where they’ll be picnicking en masse until a few hours before the event.
We caught up with one of the Sydney hosts, Antoine Bessis, to hear exactly what it takes to host a dinner of epic proportions.
You’re one of the hosts of Diner en Blanc Sydney– what does that involve?
I co-host the event with Rachel, my wife. We dream out the location, plot out the specifics, discuss the performances and the narrative of the evening, then I work on the execution with several production partners. And we host the event together on the night, of course.
Talk us through the logistical challenges of a night like DEB…
Transport is always the main challenge but we have incredible, creative, resilient and courageous participants. Aligning all the partners, the traffic management, a speedy ingress into the venue while maintaining the last-minute location disclosure is tricky. Each location has its access pros and cons and we learn from past events and adapt the transport plan accordingly.
How many people know the location during the organisational period and what are their jobs?
The fewer the better. Only those who need to be in the know for administrative and logistical purposes…
How do you organise all the group leaders? And when and how are they told about the venue?
We have Group Leaders and Table Leaders. Table Leaders are in charge of 50 guests, the Group leaders are in charge of 5 Table Leaders (250 guests in total). We apply this formula to the capacity of each event. The Group Leaders are told a few days prior to the event, the Table Leaders are told at the rendez-vous point, about an hour prior to entering the event’s venue.
What sort of challenges do you face in finding caterers and performers?
Working with different caterers on refining the food offering, the presentation and the packaging is not a challenge. With key learnings from previous years it has become one of the creative and enjoyable aspects of curating the event. It is the same when we select performers for the event, it is the fun part because it’s all about aiming to match the vision and the feel we want to actualise.
What sort of wet weather plans have you had in place in the past?
It is very clear in all the Diner en Blanc messaging that the event is rain or shine. Of course, we would not risk our guests’ safety so we have a next-day option if needed.
Can you give us some clues – or at least the criteria that you were looking for – for this year’s location?
[Laughs] No! Iconic, secret… The usual.
What’s your favourite story from last year’s DEB Sydney?
Last year’s edition was truly multi-generational and we had beautiful comments from guests that were attending with their parents and all ended up having a good boogie. Many comments came through, like: “ I hadn’t had so much fun and danced like that in years”. That’s what we like to hear. We’re still waiting for someone to propose at Diner en Blanc Sydney… Maybe this year.
This year’s Diner en Blanc is taking place on Saturday, 28 November in Sydney. Click here to find out more.